North Saanich municipal council has found itself in the uncomfortable position of acting as a mediator between two warring neighbours, as they fight over the presence of a dock. One neighbour built it (admittedly against local rules) and the other doesn’t want it there, as it affects the view.
The district’s comfort level wasn’t helped any when they stepped in to enforce local zoning and construction bylaws, sparking a long-running legal battle between them and the owners of the dock.
Councillors have lamented the difficulty of dealing with the matter, when clearly their easiest option was to simply enforce the rules — which could have meant removal of the dock or changes to make it conform — at the expense of the owners who have admitted they built it without permission or permits.
Enforcing the rules would also solve council’s desire to be fair.
Those rules are meant to be applied equally to all residents. If a mistake is made, the policies are upheld and enforced and the issue is resolved. Certainly, it might not have a good outcome for whoever makes the mistake, but rest assured they probably won’t make the mistake again.
Instead, council wants an end to the drawn out legal battle and the costs associated with it. They are so far siding with the dock owners and considering rezoning the area to allow it. It’s the path of least resistance.
This decision, however, is not fair to anyone else who is faced with a neighbour who doesn’t ask permission to build a structure and who will only have to beg forgiveness later to earn an exception.
This move has the potential to create a sliding scale of fairness. Will it set a precedent and tie council’s hands when it comes to enforcing its rules? Or will council try to deal with each matter as they come up on a case-by-case basis? If this dock is approved, why would it be fair to deny another?
Council’s decision might look easy now, but it will keep them between other neighbour disputes in which they have no business.