Sechelt councillors recommended first reading of a controversial bylaw months in the making during their Oct. 24 committee of the whole meeting.
The controlled substance bylaw was recommended for first reading by a majority of council, although Coun. Chris Moore and Mayor John Henderson did not support it.
Back in June of this year Sechelt Fire Chief Bill Higgs pressed council to consider a bylaw that would impose heavy fines on clandestine grow ops in the District, citing safety concerns for firefighters. The request started months of debate and the drafting of a new bylaw, presented to council Oct. 24.
The bylaw calls for high fees for homeowners caught with illegal grow ops and regulates safety and building standards for anyone growing legally.
“They can grow them but we have a right to go in and make sure that building codes and safety and everything’s been dealt with,” said Coun. Darnelda Siegers.
The fines in the bylaw are levied each time an inspector must enter a parcel, which quickly adds up; however, the fines have a cap at $10,000.
The bylaw calls for $500 to be paid per inspection, $500 for subsequent inspections undertaken if the owner or occupier fails to fix things ordered by the fire chief or other authorized person, and a $500 fee for “special safety” inspections.
The bylaw also calls for those in contravention to pay 200 per cent of the wage rate for firefighters who need to be called in to assist plus an additional $500. It also talks about the need to repay any policing costs at a rate of $38.60 an hour.
Coun. Doug Hockley wanted to see higher fines for the policing aspect of the bylaw.
“The rate the RCMP obviously provided I find grossly lacking,” he said. “The loaded costs of a police officer with a vehicle on site for an hour would be a lot more than $38. The insurance costs for the vehicle, everything. The loaded costs of that person being on site for an hour is weighty.”
Coun. Alice Lutes asked about rewording the document to allow for higher costs in the future if need be; however, staff noted the bylaw and fees associated should be reviewed annually.
Moore was vocally opposed to the bylaw: “Where does it end for us as public officials?” he asked. “We start with this kind of possible elements of a home [then] it could be animals. Where do we get off the bus in terms of attempting to regulate and control people, what they can and can not do with properties?”
When the vote was called to recommend first reading, all but Moore and Henderson were in favour.
The bylaw should come to the Nov. 7 council meeting to formally give it first reading.