Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Trustees give approval to enforcement review

“Administratively fair, reasonable and transparent with the aim of restoring public confidence.” 

That’s the target for the Islands Trust’s bylaw enforcement policies and procedures review, which was officially kicked off Thursday, March 14 as Trust Council voted unanimously to approve the project’s charter.  

A straight line can be drawn between those goals — and any future revisions to bylaw compliance and enforcement policies — and a list of recommendations from the provincial Office of the Ombudsperson received back in September, sought by Trust Council as a result of public complaints heard at previous council meetings. 

Trust Council had directed staff develop a workflow plan and project charter to implement those recommendations — and that, as planning services director Stefan Cermak explained, is what happened. 

“The scope of the work is to review, assess and implement the recommendations of the Ombudsperson’s report,” said Cermak, “through changes to Trust Council policies, bylaw enforcement practices and procedures, and [to] implement changes through staff training and regular communications.” 

The Ombudsperson’s report included several “best practice” recommendations, such as distinguishing between policies and practices, and suggested a clearer publicly available policy to assist staff in exercising discretion. It also recommended various updates to definitions and guiding principles, as well as clearer procedures for handling complaints — updating communications materials to follow “principles of administrative fairness, and to ensure that the reader is in mind.” 

Cermak said the Trust’s Regional Planning Committee did make several amendments to the original proposal; Salt Spring Island trustee Laura Patrick said the biggest change out of that committee was simply to clarify purpose. 

“We wanted to be clear on why we were doing the work,” said Patrick. “The purpose statement was quite clear; we’re doing it to resolve bylaw enforcement matters efficiently and with minimal conflict, by reviewing and amending the Islands Trust bylaw enforcement policies and procedures to be administratively fair, reasonable and transparent. And with the aim of restoring public confidence.” 

Cermak added that the Ombudsperson’s office is willing to continue to offer advice and review changes as they become finalized. While the review does not contemplate amending bylaws themselves, the work plan indicates new enforcement policy and practice revisions could be referred back to Trust Council for adoption by the end of the year, with implementation beginning as soon as spring 2025. 

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