It’s been a busy July and August for Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) bylaw enforcement officers. In six weeks, they have issued nearly $30,000 in fines with an additional $7,000 worth pending issuance this week. That amount compares to $850 issued during the same period last year, according to communications manager Aidan Buckley.
An Aug. 16 SCRD press release detailed that $28,000 in fines were issued for offences including unauthorized land alteration and tree cutting. Fines worth $1,000 were issued in relation to short term rentals and $250 in penalties were written up for building infractions. Fines for bylaw offences were issued in every rural SCRD area.
During the summer of 2021, Buckley said the fines issued were not related to land development but for animal control, fire protection and a building violations.
In the release, general manager of planning and development Ian Hall stated “The SCRD always strives first for voluntary compliance, so this amount is quite staggering as our current Board policy is to use fines as a last resort…such is the lack of compliance that we are issuing tickets daily in one of our bylaw investigations.”
Call before starting projects
The message from the SCRD: “call before you dig, clear, build or demolish.”
It stresses that its planning, bylaw and building departments are available to answer questions and can advise individuals on permits and applications that are required for work they are planning to do. Contractors carrying out work such as tree cutting or land clearing are also subject to enforcement actions and it is their responsibility to ensure that the property owner has the correct permits in place.
The SCRD points out that there is also the potential for other agencies such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources to issue fines relating to improper or unpermitted land development activities. It advises that particular attention should be paid to properties that have creeks, wetlands or streams on them, including watercourses that may appear and disappear seasonally.
...and violation complaints keep coming
On top of investigations on bylaw violation files that have progressed to the fine stage, the release states that SCRD staff are also dealing with a high volume of bylaw ‘nuisance’ reports from the public, which include odour, burning and noise complaints.
In addition to being complex in nature from a local government legislation standpoint, many of those files also involve other agencies such as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Vancouver Coastal Health, Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Agricultural Land Commission and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“We understand there are concerns around issues such as unauthorized land clearing and noise. We share your concern and ask the community to please be patient while our hardworking bylaw officers investigate,” says a quote in the release from Hall. “We are limited to the amount of information we can share with the community because we do not want to compromise our investigations, but please know that our bylaw enforcement officers are actively investigating and issuing fines.”
Those complexities also impact the amount of information that can be shared with Coast Reporter. Details requested on subjects including the stop work order at the Gunnar’s Lodge property in Doriston and a roadside encampment along Garden Bay Road near the Meadow Creek bridge remain outstanding.
“When we have enforcement going on, it is quite hard for us to speak to individual files until they are concluded,” Buckley stated.