SUNDRE – The municipality’s ongoing effort to review and in some instances repeal and rescind outdated bylaws that are still on the books has provided a window into the past that council and administration say they want to keep streak-free for posterity’s sake.
Chief administrative officer Linda Nelson started the project in 2018. It involves a comprehensive review of all of the municipality’s bylaws along with the creation of a formal file-management system for all of the bylaws dating back to the first one that was adopted on Feb. 23, 1950 by the council of the day.
“It’s a massive project,” Nelson told the Albertan, later adding that since getting started a few years ago, administration has reviewed somewhere in the vicinity of more than 1,000 bylaws and continues to tackle more whenever time allows.
“We went all the way back to the first bylaw that was ever written, because you want to make sure you’ve got that history,” she said. “That’s really interesting information for our municipality to have.”
One way or another, Nelson added that a municipality should as a best practice always initiate a bylaw review process every few years regardless to ensure the regulations are not only still relevant but also within the legal parameters of updated provincial and federal legislation.
“There’s also bylaws that while they might have been legal in the past, they certainly are not today,” she said.
Additionally, there are certain bylaws that technically cannot even be repealed unless replaced with another, while others yet can never be repealed at all, such as old tax bylaws, she said.
“You wouldn’t repeal a tax rate bylaw, but you’d archive it because it’s only valid for that one year,” she said.
Responding to a question about how the project has been progressing, she said “I think we’re in really good shape” but added “this isn’t something that you complete in two or three years” unless a staff member were to be exclusively dedicated to this single task at the expense of more pressing priorities.
Mayor Richard Warnock was pleased by the progress outlined in a report to council that was accepted for information during the regular Jan. 9 meeting, and he praised Nelson and her staff for doing “an awesome job cleaning those (bylaws) up.”
Although council has not set a specific timeline for administration to complete the substantial undertaking, Warnock said the intent is to finish the review prior to the start of the next term in about three years.
The council discussion during the Jan. 9 meeting revolved primarily around everybody agreeing to get the bylaw review committee back in session, the mayor said.
“With COVID, we didn’t really have many bylaw review committee meetings,” he said.
The bylaw review committee is a committee of council comprised of all sitting members, he said.
“So, it’s important that we have good attendance for those meetings,” he said. “Those are some of the things that you just can’t do via Zoom or telephone.”
Recommendations will eventually come back to an open council meeting for final discussion and debate before putting the file to rest, he said.
While some outdated bylaws such as those that would have regulated the use of horses on town streets had already been rescinded during the last council term, the effort goes on to identify those that remain relevant or otherwise might need to be re-written, he said.
“You don’t want to rescind something that’s relevant,” he said. “You want to make damn sure that you don’t need it anymore before you take it off the books.”