Good Neighbour bylaw raises many questions

The bylaw includes items such as noise issues, odour issues, vacant buildings, light pollution, panhandling and graffiti.

  • Nov. 8, 2015 8:00 a.m.

Frank Bucholtz

Mission Record

Mission council is considering a raft of policy changes to promote more neighbourliness.

Council discussed the varying policies in the form of a proposed Good Neighbour bylaw at its Oct. 21 meeting. The bylaw includes items such as noise issues,  odour issues, vacant buildings, light pollution, panhandling and graffiti.

The proposed bylaw led to several questions from members of council to deputy administrator Mike Younie.

Coun. Pam Alexis asked about the vacant building portion of the bylaw, the most significant change to existing bylaws. It is based on similar bylaws in Williams Lake and Penticton.

This section will require owners of vacant buildings to obtain a Vacant Building Registration (VBR) permit if their building is not being renovated, offered for sale while meeting building code requirements or not representing a nuisance or hazardous condition. Along with the permit are requirements to carry insurance, maintain and board the building to certain standards and to allow regular access by the municipality to ensure the standards are being met.

VBR permits would be valid for two years for commercial, multi-family and industrial buildings and one year for residential buildings. Permits can be extended only with approval from council, which offers council an opportunity to discuss the reasons for vacancy with the owner.

Alexis asked if the staff had received a recommendation for this section from the Downtown Business Association. Younie said the district plans to do so and also to consult with the Chamber of Commerce.

He added that vacant buildings are a more important issue in the downtown area than in a rural area.

Coun. Danny Plecas said the bylaw needs to spell out the definition of a vacant building more clearly.

Coun. Jenny Stevens asked if the vacant building section would apply to buildings where squatters have moved in. Younie said that issue can be dealt with under other laws, including zoning and unsightly premises bylaws.

Alexis asked if the vacant building section could apply to occupied buildings in the downtown area, some of which take away from the area’s ambiance. Younie replied that the district can use the Community Charter to help urge owners to improve their buildings.

She asked what types of noise were subject to the most complaints. Younie said what bothers one person does not necessarily bother another, but in general complaints centre around loud parties, loud mufflers on vehicles and barking dogs. The district does not generally receive complaints about Mission Raceway or train whistles, although he is aware they are the  subject of come general complaints in the community.

Mayor Randy Hawes asked if marijuana plants being prepared for harvest would qualify under the odour section. Younie replied that odour complaints are difficult to pin down, but are most likely to be resolved if neighbours keep detailed records and if more than one neighbour makes a complaint.

However, he added that there will be limited staff to respond to complaints under the proposed bylaw, so enforcement would be selective.