Nanaimo will have at least one municipal partner when it embarks on a new program that will see bylaw disputes handled through an adjudicator instead of provincial court.
Parksville has indicated it is interested in establishing a joint adjudication registry, while the City of Duncan is also considering joining.
Last fall, Nanaimo city council voted to have an adjudicator handle minor bylaw infraction tickets for residents who choose to dispute them.
The process is expected to lower the resolution process from about 12 months down to six weeks while reducing costs and time required for city resources.
“The best part about it is that for the common person disputing a ticket, it will be much easier,” said Rod Davidson, City of Nanaimo’s manager of parking services. “The evidence will already have been considered, people don’t have to appear with a lawyer, it is far more efficient.”
Davidson previously worked in the Interior where a similar system was employed.
He said the overall atmosphere of the hearings was “far more pleasant” than provincial court.
The new system is expected to commence in late March with hearings taking place at the new annex on the last Wednesday of each month.
Nanaimo’s bylaw department writes about 2,000 bylaw infraction tickets each year. With parking enforcement moving in-house, 20 to 25 disputes are expected each month.
“The estimate is we might be able to hear 30 disputes at one time, whereas in provincial court we’re lucky if we get through eight,” said Andrew Tucker, the city’s director of planning.
Disputes commonly include parking tickets, dog licences and minor zoning infractions.
Each bylaw adjudication hearing is estimated to cost approximately $800. Municipalities that partner with the City of Nanaimo will pay in direct proportion to how many cases are heard from each jurisdiction.
Coun. Bill McKay asked staff for a cost comparison between the final 12 months of the old system and the first 12 months of the new system to ensure cost savings are being met.
“I just want to make sure that big brother doesn’t end up paying for its smaller siblings,” said McKay.
Nanaimo will join more than 50 other B.C. municipal governments using the new system, which was piloted more than eight years ago in North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and the City of West Vancouver.