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Fernie Council passes public places bylaw

Fernie City Council recently passed “Public Places Bylaw No. 2181, 2012” that regulates and prohibits nuisances, disturbances and other objectionable situations in public places.

The goal of the bylaw is to promote healthy, safe, enjoyable and reasonable use of public places for the benefit of all citizens, businesses and visitors in the City.

Specifically, the bylaw prohibits littering, public urination and defecation, fighting, throwing things likely to cause damage to persons or property, and obstructing individuals or traffic in public places.

Council also passed a companion enforcement bylaw that sets out the fines that could be imposed if someone violates Public Places Bylaw No. 2181, 2012. Fines range from $150 to $500 depending on the violation and whether it is a first or subsequence offence.

The impetus for creating a bylaw to deal with these nuisances came from the City’s Downtown Task Force established by Council to focus on downtown late night issues. The Task Force’s goal was to create a comprehensive and cohesive strategy to ensure the City of Fernie maintains a vibrant downtown core that balances the needs of local businesses, residents and visitors.

The RCMP, as a member on the Task Force, asked the City to develop a municipal bylaw to assist them in dealing with late night nuisances and disturbances in a manner that was more efficient and appropriate than using section 175 of the Criminal Code.

"The enactment of this bylaw gives police an excellent tool to deal with some of the issues occurring in the downtown area,” said Staff Sgt. Lorne Craig of the Elk Valley RCMP detachment. “People engaged in the bad behavior that this bylaw prohibits will be subject to a fine under this law.  Our ultimate goal is to make the downtown area a safe, crime free area."

The Task Force also identified other action areas to focus on including leadership, awareness and education, collaboration, community pride, monitoring and reporting, and learning.

In response to the Task Force suggestions, council is exploring the use of surveillance cameras downtown and continues to lobby the provincial government for more RCMP resources for Fernie. The City’s Beautification committee is focusing on the ‘community pride’ aspect of improving the downtown. They will be installing more garbage cans, enhancing flower baskets and landscaping and continuing to develop the City’s winter and summer decoration inventory.

The City hopes using this two-pronged approach, emphasizing bylaw enforcement while enhancing the visual appeal of downtown will be the most effective way to deal with the late night downtown issues and encourage civic pride and responsible behaviour.

For more information and to view copies of the bylaws visit the City’s website at www.fernie.ca

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