Those who build within an environmentally protected area without a permit may soon find themselves facing a $500 fine.
Township council passed a ticketing amendment on May 29 that will give more leverage to bylaw officers enforcing streamside protection and enhancement requirements set out in the Langley Official Community Plan Bylaw.
This section of the bylaw ensures that “fisheries, wildlife, trees, water resources, soils, recreation and archaeological values, property and human safety” in Streamside Protection and Enhancement Development Permit Areas (SPEAs) are protected and enhanced, and that development impacts are mitigated, according to a staff report to council.
Prior to the amendment, staff relied on voluntary compliance, and the only stronger enforcement option available was a summary conviction in court.
“I think we’re fast approaching a fairy significant increment in this particular issue of streamside protection and enhancement, and I think that this is a constructive way of dealing with people who violate the policies,” said Coun. Charlie Fox.
“… Up until now, we’ve dealt with voluntary compliance, but this is more effective and stronger and I really support this, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Mayor Jack Froese agreed, calling the fine “a good first step.”
“This is just one piece of the bylaw, and in my world that I came from in policing, if you have a law with no enforcement, you really don’t have much of a law.”
The $500 amount is similar to other environmental related bylaws, including the erosion and sediment control bylaw and watercourse protection bylaw, however Coun. Petrina Arnason feels the penalty could be higher.
“I’m not necessarily sure with the way things are going that it’s aggressive enough, although I understand that it’s an incremental approach that we’re taking. So going from volunteerism to trying to put some teeth in it I think is very helpful,” she said.
“One of the things that I’ve discovered, actually, is that … oftentimes when we have an area that’s covered by a restricted covenant, or an area that cannot be environmentally encroached, that over time what happens without any oversight is that this gets ignored and people start building things on it like gazebos and their gardens. So I’m wondering if staff have given any consideration to, once there is an infraction, to ensuring that the area is actually fenced off for its future protection?”
Ramin Seifi, Township general manager of engineering and community development, replied that those sorts of measures are incorporated into the bylaw.