New committee to catch up on bylaw backlog

Lisa Goudy
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Council votes on an item at the Jan. 13, 2014 council meeting at city hall.

“I’m not sure that this will be seen as a fun exercise, but I think it’s an essential, not just as a housekeeping obligation, but a critical review of bylaws, some of which are and have long been obsolete,” said Coun. Don Mitchell.

The bylaw and policy review committee was established at Monday’s council meeting. The committee will include Mayor Deb Higgins, Mitchell and Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick, city manager Matt Noble, city clerk/solicitor Myron Gulka-Tiechko and manager of planning Michelle Sanson. Mitchell and Kirkpatrick volunteered to be on the committee.

The committee will come forward on an ad hoc basis to executive committee or council and council will make the ultimate decision based on the committee’s recommendations on backlogged items, new bylaws and proposed amendments.

“The committee would basically constitute a mechanism for prioritizing which bylaws and policies will come forward and will also dedicate attention on those that are of a greater concern,” said Gulka-Tiechko. “(It’s) a sort of focus for the attention in that area that is badly needed and will hopefully speed the review and vetting of bylaws, bringing them forward to council on a timely basis.”

The background report from Gulka-Tiechko’s department said one of the major reasons for the backlog of items is the “significant staff turnover that has occurred over the past decade.”

However, Coun. Brian Swanson said in October 2011 he brought forward a motion for a bylaw making it “illegal for one property owner to pump water onto the property of another property owner.”

“There’s still no bylaw and I just don’t buy that there was no time for that,” he said. “I don’t appreciate bringing forward a motion that is passed, waiting more than two years and then now seeing it shuffled off to some committee where they will decide where it sits on the list of priorities when it’s already been voted on at council … To me, this is just sloppy management of resources.”

Mayor Deb Higgins said all councillors have a code of conduct.

“Referring to sloppy work by anyone is really unnecessary and uncalled for. When we’re looking at putting in place a process that provides us an opportunity to review all of the bylaws and policies within the city, I don’t think any of us would disagree that it’s long past due,” said Higgins.

“We also need to make sure we are current and I mean, it works to do things as they arise, but it would be much better if we were better prepared.”

Coun. Dawn Luhning said there is a long outstanding list of items dating back between eight and 10 years.

“However, I believe that there are some bylaws that should be reviewed and I don’t think it hurts for us to do that,” said Luhning. “In my 11 years here I’ve never reviewed the bylaws … When we initially started talking about this, I kind of wondered if it was a wasted exercise, but I don’t think something like this is.”

Council approved the terms of reference for the committee and referred the outstanding list of bylaw items between 2001 and 2012. The list will be involved in the committee’s work.

Only Swanson was opposed to the establishment of the committee.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

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