By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A leaner Community Standards Bylaw was brought to Morinville Town Council June 28 for first reading. After going to the Town’s lawyers for legal review, a number of items were removed from the bylaw.
Gone from the revised draft are regulations on loitering, seen as too vague and difficult to enforce, and already governed by senior governmental legislation. Additionally, Morinville’s existing park legislation already carries clauses on hours people are allowed to occupy the town’s parks. A section on fighting and dangerous activity was also removed for similar reasons of redundancy with senior government laws and regulations.
While loitering and fighting is not merely the domain of the young, council had asked for clarification on how Community Peace Officers (CPO) would deal with minors. Council heard CPOs will deal with minors through warnings and education with tickets given at the discretion of the officer. In the event a ticket is issued, it will be issued to the offending minor. The names and contact info of parents or guardians would be required for follow up.
Noise and odour were dealt with differently in the legal review. Reference to noise has been removed from the standards bylaw on the reasoning Morinville’s existing noise bylaw stands on its own. Reference to odour in the Community Standards Bylaw has been preserved and worded in such a way as to not encroach on senior government legislation, such as environmental standards. The wording of the bylaw is retained from when it was first presented in May.
Under the category of nuisances, residents would be required to “refrain from engaging in any activity or use of their property that results in the production of offensive odours, excessive dust or smoke, or similar conditions which represent a nuisance to adjacent owners or the general public in the area of their property.”
The proposed fine for causing or permitting a nuisance to exist on land occupied by an owner is set at $200 for a first offense, $400 for subsequent offences. If the nuisance is of an odorous nature, that amount would increase to $250 on a first offense, $500 for subsequent offences.
Fines and their delivery
Deputy Mayor Gordon Boddez expressed his concerns about fines in general, particularly the requirement of home owners to keep boulevards (the grass area between sidewalk and road) mowed.
“Most people in town aren’t even aware they are supposed to keep the boulevard,” he said. “A lot of people would be quite surprised that’s the case. When they receive the $200 fine they’d be really surprised.”
Boddez said the Town needs a clear process where people have to be informed as to what is in the bylaw. Morinville already has such a procedure in place through a two -page advertisement in one of the local papers, links to the advertisement on MorinvilleNews.com and housing the weekly town News advertisement on the Town’s website. Additionally, the Town of Morinville has PDF versions of town bylaws available to the public.
However, the Deputy Mayor went on to say there should be a warning process for fines that is incorporated into the policy for the bylaw. “There should be a process where you give a warning,” Boddez said. “You follow a process before a fine is given. You can put it in the papers. They [the public] are still not aware of it. I don’t like the idea of discretionary. I like the idea they get a warning.”
Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer said peace officers wouldn’t just give a fine without a warning and education taking place first. Morinville’s bylaws have long had an education period prior to fines being issued. Councillor Paul Krauskopf pointed out to the Deputy Mayor warnings are in fact already built into the draft of the bylaw and that service of a notice is standard operating procedure. Councillors were presented a copy of the bylaw in their agenda packages the week before the meeting.
Although fines increase with second and subsequent offences, Krauskopf advocated a higher fine for a third offence. “If you are talking to a person three times, I think the fine should be higher,” he said.
Councillor Boddez disagreed with a higher fine for a third offence because the fine recipient might not be able to afford it.
The draft of the Community Standards bylaw received a unanimous first reading and could receive second and third reading as early as July 12.