Fines, they are a changin’

Calgary looks at raising fines for community standards bylaw violations

Imagine you’re lying in bed Friday night, you’ve had a productive day, and you have to be up early tomorrow. Suddenly, you hear the low grumble of the teenaged neighbour’s bass rumbling to the very fibres of your core.

It happens, and it’s always at the worst time.

You call the police. They show up and bust the party, leaving the host with a hefty fine to discourage future misbehaviour. Finally, you have bested the neighbourhood brat and you can continue your life, waking up with pep in your step every morning.

But, next weekend rolls around and it happens again.

This is unfortunate, certainly, but it prompts a substantial question: should the fines for community standards bylaw violations be steeper?

The proposition encompasses multiple aforementioned bylaws, including fire pit regulations, noise regulations and untidy properties, among others.

According to the city’s survey, pit sizes, burning materials and location are currently regulated. In addition, 78 per cent of people surveyed are not worried about fire pits, and 73 per cent do not support banning them.

What the city suggests, then, is requiring the use of a spark guard to mitigate the number of embers that escape from the pit, bringing the fire pit end time down from 1 a.m. to 12 a.m. and increasing the violation fine from $500 to, well, that’s the issue. The numbers haven’t been released.

It’s difficult for people to back fine hikes when they don’t know how substantial of an increase it is.

Leanne Gremshi, a resident of southwest Calgary, said should the changes take place, it will have little impact.

“I don’t think the city follows through fast enough with complaints [anyways].

“Seriously, I don’t think it makes a difference.”

Gremshi said, under the current bylaws, she has never heard of anyone receiving fines from the city for violating the current standards, nor does she believe people should be penalized for a first offence.

“I think if it’s the third or fourth violation, action should be taken.”

In addition, she said adding a grate requirement to fire pits would be of no benefit.

“Even with the grate, if someone’s irresponsible, it still can happen,” said Gremshi.

Though, it’s important to remember the city won’t be deciding without receiving feedback from residents.

Calgary is asking residents to complete their online survey for feedback on the proposed increase in fines.

According to an article by CBC on Aug. 30, Alvin Murray, Calgary’s chief bylaw officer, intends on bringing the peoples’ thoughts to the city in November of this year.

So, should these unquantifiable changes go through, be cognizant of your lawns’ length, how loud you are after sunset and practice safe usage of fire pits, especially as poor students who have far more pertinent things to worry about than paying a pesky bylaw violation ticket.

“I think they should focus their time and money on something beneficial,” said Gremshi.

And she isn’t wrong. Instead of focusing on community standards bylaws, which, albeit, are genuinely important, perhaps the city should allocate the tax money in a more relevant service, such as affordable housing or climate change action, which would actually benefit everyone.

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