District of Houston municipal office

District to target nuisances in proposed bylaw

Would allow fees to be assessed against offenders

The District of Houston is taking another step to increase its ability to have people comply with its various bylaws.

And that’s to have staffers draft a nuisance bylaw which will include the ability to levy fees for actions taken by the District to deal with any number of issues ranging from noise to unsightly premises to accumulated garbage on property, to emissions that contaminate the atmosphere to unsanitary conditions to trees, weeds and any other growth that the District feels should be cut down or trimmed.

Council members considered the matter of fees at its Oct. 6 meeting, directing staffers to draft a bylaw establishing a set fee for a first visit to a property or in responding to a situation.

It would also allow for “actual costs to be collected for labour, equipment, contractor, and materials costs related to abating a nuisance. This system would allow the District to directly abate nuisances for identified nuisance properties, and impose the costs onto the property taxes as a special charge against the land for the property if the fees remain unpaid,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck in outlining council’s intent.

“Council has further requested that staff present a recommendation on how these properties will be identified which is both clear and practical.”

Staffers will now review fees charged by other communities before making recommendations.

Pinchbeck said the District’s new bylaw enforcement officer, a position it is sharing with the regional district, will be the primary responder to nuisance issues.

“This fits into our strategy for improving compliance with municipal bylaws,” he noted.

A memo from District communications officer Holly Brown, which presented council with various options, did note that following an order from Council to deal with a nuisance, property owners would have the opportunity to appear before Council.

“Nuisance abatement fees would only provide our bylaw enforcement personnel with a last resort tool to deter non-compliance behavior …..,” she wrote.

A list of what other communities charge was also presented by Brown. Nanaimo, for example, charges $250 per attendance by any staffer. Williams Lake charges the same while Hope and Clearwater charge $100 per call.

A list of nuisances which could be identified by the District as needing action and included by Brown in her memo included noise or other circumstances “liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals or the public” and “indecency and profane, blasphemous or grossly insulting language.”