North Cowichan is going to try to find a consistent way to deal with bylaw enforcement.
Councillors voted Jan. 21 to draft a policy covering "process, expectations and outcomes" related to compliance with and enforcement of bylaws so it is "applied equally to all property owners in the municipality."
This move followed a discussion of a staff report to council about situations at the Richards Trail property owned by Gordon and Catherine Pastula.
Council directed staff to write a letter to the couple requesting that they relocate or realign their driveway and that they clean up and improve the visual appearance of their property in the next six months or face further action.
Despite deciding to write the letters, councillors were warned by their colleague Al Siebring to proceed carefully.
The issue came to council at least in part because of a complaint, at a time when neighbours of the farm are unhappy with the Pastulas’ application to remove gravel from their property.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen expressed surprise that they were being asked to deal with an unsightly property, saying that there were many such in the municipality and Siebring agreed.
"I think the way to deal with this should not be to bring down the hammer," said Siebring. "I would urge a tremendous amount of caution. There are properties in this municipality that are worse than this."
North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana said his staff had simply been asked at a previous meeting to provide a report on bylaw compliance issues and were also following up the complaint.
"This is not draconian," he said. "These are fairly common requests. But, we’ve been talking about bylaw enforcement for four and a half years."
Siebring persisted. "I don’t like the implications," he said.
"If complaints led to this, it doesn’t sit well with me," said Coun. Maeve Maguire. "This is where I feel it’s heavy handed."
She suggested dealing with a report on bylaw enforcement and then writing to the property owners.
Devana said that since the municipality has received a complaint, "we’d write the letter regardless."