Bylaw proposal causes council consternation

Introduction of a new bylaw resulted in some spirited discussion between Keremeos council and members of the gallery.

Keremeos village council had little on the agenda at the regular meeting on January 6,  but the introduction of a new bylaw resulted in some spirited discussion between council and members of the gallery.

Village staff presented a proposal for a “good neighbour bylaw” for council’s consideration.

The proposal’s intent was to  incorporate property maintenance, nuisance, noise, firearms, littering and health regulations into a single bylaw, in an effort to consolidate and streamline a number of bylaws already on village books.

The new bylaw was also intended to bolster the law in order to  assist enforcement authorities for certain activities.

All four councillors, including three members of the public in the gallery expressed similar concerns over the document.

“Too onerous,”  said Councillor Arlow, while Councillor Thielmann called the changes in the bylaw “harsh and draconian.” Councillor Cowling echoed the comments of the others, while Councillor Evans felt the potential was great for abuse of the bylaw.

“It needs softening,” he told council.

Chief Administrative Officer Laurie Taylor defended the changes, noting that much of what was in the new bylaw already existed in older  village bylaws. The main objective behind introduction of the good neighbour bylaw was to “consolidate and improve existing bylaws.”

Council discussed the possibility of a more in depth discussion of the bylaw at a later date, noting time constraints at the regular meeting, but Taylor advised council to refer the document back to staff to let them “soften” the document.

Those in the gallery were equally critical of the proposed changes.

“It may be 2014, but this reminds me of 1984,” said one resident, making reference to the George Orwell novel about perpetual government surveillance and interference.

“The feds dump on the province, the province dumps on the municipalities, and the municipalities dump on the taxpayer, he continued, “taxes in the village are not going down, yet the taxpayer is expected to look after more.” The resident referenced a couple of passages in the bylaw, one dealing with snow removal that specified property owners not dump snow on village or highways property,  a  regulation that would be difficult to obey in the downtown core.

“Tone it down,” advised the resident.

A second member of the gallery expressed his view that the document “wasn’t user friendly.”

“There are some very dumb phrases and definitions in there, he said, “You’ve put the onus on us for everything past the property line, just because you don’t want to do anything anymore.” He noted the document’s definition of a derelict vehicle would include seasonal vehicles without plates and construction vehicles that are normally unplated.

“We hear you loud and clear,” expressed Mayor Manfred Bauer, after council made the decision to refer the document back to staff for revision. He also noted that without clear, well defined bylaws, the village would have a difficult time regulating and controlling disprespectful behaviour during summer months when the village deals with a large number of transients.