Central Okanagan residents involved in minor bylaw infractions, such as zoning and animal control complaints, can now take their disputes to an independent adjudicator working outside the traditional courtroom.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan has joined more than 60 other local governments, including Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna, that are already using an adjudication system piloted nine years ago and offered through the Ministry of Justice.
The adjudication system eliminates the roles of court and court registries in the administration and hearing of disputes, which saves time and money and makes more efficient use of court resources.
“The regional district is excited to be joining the bylaw adjudication system, participating with other local governments in the southern interior,” said board chairman Robert Hobson. “The system will support the community by providing a simpler, speedier and more cost effective alternative for resolving minor regional district bylaw violations.”
Under the adjudication system, each local government determines which bylaws it wants included. RDCO plans to use the new system to administer zoning, business licensing, animal control, water and other bylaw disputes more efficiently and effectively.
RDCO will join with other local governments in the area in order to provide the adjudication service in the most efficient and economical manner possible. It will work with the cities of Kelowna and Penticton, the Districts of Lake Country, West Kelowna and Summerland, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and the Town of Oliver.
As part of ongoing reform to the justice system, the B.C. government is increasing the number of alternative ways to resolve disputes, when appropriate, without requiring individuals to use the courts. Court alternatives help to reduce stress, shorten the time required to resolve disputes, and ultimately, cut costs for both the individual and taxpayer.
“The Province is committed to ensuring residents and businesses have quick and easy access to our justice system,” said Kelonwna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson. “I’m pleased to see this particular service growing to include another area of the southern interior.”
Sixty-two local governments throughout B.C. are currently using, or are in the process of developing, a bylaw dispute adjudication system. Dispute adjudication issues range from parking tickets to dog licensing and other minor zoning infractions.
The City and the District North Vancouver, along with West Vancouver were the first municipalities in B.C. use the bylaw adjudication system as part of a 2004 pilot project.
Individual municipalities track the number of bylaws managed by the adjudication process, and can have screening officers attempt to resolve disputes prior to the formal adjudication process.
Several thousand disputes have been settled using adjudication since the inception of the program.
Independent adjudicators are appointed by the deputy attorney general and need to be experienced as an adjudicator of disputes, have post-secondary training in adjudication and successful complete a specialized bylaw dispute adjudication training course.