Council enacts higher fines for zoning, sign bylaw violations

Contrary to some reports, Vancouver city council has not approved $10,000 fines for “homelessness” in a package of bylaw enactments approved last night. The increased fines enacted at last night’s public hearing covered violations of the zoning bylaw and the sign bylaw. (The entire package had been debated at council in 2012 and forwarded for enactment at public hearing.)

The city has been working on an increase in the maximum fine for bylaw infractions since 2009, when the Vancouver Charter was amended to allow increases in line with those already in place under the Community Charter in the rest of BC. Current maximum fines of $2,000 are no deterrent to landowners making significant profits from illegal parking, illegal advertising signs or violations of the building code, so a new maximum of $10,000 is proposed.

Council shelved enactment of increases to the maximum in some bylaws now being challenged on constitutional grounds by Pivot Legal. These remain unchanged pending the outcome of the court case.

Councillor Raymond Louie offered this information to one writer on Facebook last night:

The information in the Mainlander is wrong. It is often true that you cannot believe everything you read and it is certainly true in this instance.

Council did agree to increase the amount of fines that the Courts could apply to those that commit an offense of a city bylaw but the approval was only for infractions related to the “sign by-law” and the “Zoning and Development By-law.”

Here is a passage from the staff report that describes what happened after Council approved and increase in fines for the Fire by-law.:”Note that since the Charter amendment in 2009, Council has approved the new maximum fine amount of $10,000 in the Fire By-law, the Protection of Trees By-law, and the Street Utilities By-law.

“The City Prosecutor commented that a number of charges have been laid under the Fire By-law since the fine increase. She recalled a specific case involving various holding companies that own and operate multiple apartment buildings. Prior to the charges, the buildings were consistently kept in very poor condition with multiple infractions under the Fire By-law. These companies were charged for fire safety violations on four of their buildings and received a substantive fine from the Court.

“As a result, the Fire Department reported that these buildings have improved vastly because the landlords have now put in place regular training programs for their building staff in conjunction with quality control measures to ensure their buildings meet fire safety requirements in compliance with the Fire By-law.”