The Village of Kaslo says it can’t do anything about offensive speech on display downtown – and municipal leaders dodged an opportunity to condemn such displays.
The issue came up after a citizen complained that a sign posted in the window at 423 Front Street constituted “hate speech” against gays, lesbians, and people of colour.
“It’s a problem,” wrote Dave Collier to council. “Those signs will not come down if there’s no intervention. Fun to see them for Christmas Light Up and Maydays next spring? It’s a headache for you and it’s a headache for all of us living here.”
Staff wrote back to Collier, saying there’s not much they can do.
“As matters stand, the Village of Kaslo is not empowered to take action against violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” wrote CAO Ian Dunlop. “The authority to enforce this or any other federal law lies with the federal government alone (the authority is not shared with either municipal or provincial governments).”
Dunlop suggested Collier and another complainant could contact the RCMP about the signage to see if there are actions that they can take. He noted Village bylaws only cover signs on the outside of buildings, and has no jurisdiction inside.
“If unauthorized signs appear on the outside of a building, please let me know because that is a matter that could be addressed by the Village,” he said.
Council passed a motion to receive the correspondence as information. At the public question period, Mayor Hewat and councillors declined to say what they think about such signs being displayed in the community.
“It’s inside a private business, and we can’t tell them what to do,” said Hewat after a long pause.
“And we don’t need to fish for more division,” added Councillor Kellie Knoll.
No change in tree plan
A local landowner has found out that after taking several years and thousands of dollars to develop, council is in no mood to ignore its brand new Tree Planting Plan.
Michael Proctor of B Avenue told council he wanted to plant five trees, at his own expense, on public land between his house and the Village campground.
“No room for a wonderful, tolerant neighbour of the campground having a tiny bit of privacy?” he asked council. He said the trees would be planted in accordance with Village guidelines and established practice so as not interfere with underground infrastructure, and he would take care of their maintenance.
But council adopted its new Tree Planting Plan in August. It sets out recommended locations for planting trees on municipal lands, as well as recommendations regarding species selection. Any changes to the plan require council approval.
While Proctor chose a species approved in the civic plan, he was asking to plant four more trees than called for at that location.
And “as the trees will be located on public property, the Village will ultimately be responsible for their care and maintenance if the property owner is unable or unwilling to perform this work during any point in the tree’s lifecycle,” a note from staff said. “If required, the removal of the tree will be at the Village’s cost.”
And after spending all that time developing a plan, council decided not to ignore it the first time a decision came to them about it.
They said Proctor could plant one tree at the location.
“There’s no point… I was doing it to create a bit of a buffer between me and the campground,” Proctor told council. “One tree won’t really do that – unless I get a really wide tree,” he added, jokingly.
“We’re going to try to be following the plan from now on that was developed by Cathro Consulting,” reiterated Mayor Hewat.
Colour me historic
The owners of a heritage building downtown will get their chance to argue their colour scheme to council. Nathan and Carolyn Thomson, owners of 419 Front, want to paint the building a mix of greens with red accents. Council voted to proceed with a Heritage Development Permit hearing at the next council meeting, October 26.
Remote control request
The Kaslo Remote Control (RC) Club will find out next week if council will approve its plans to improve the hobbyists’ space at the Kaslo Aerodrome.
The RC Club wants to make improvements to municipal lands near the aerodrome, which they use for flying their powered model aircraft. They want to clear some area to make the approach to the runway safer, as well as add a SeaCan on the property to house safety equipment.
Staff asked council to defer making a decision until October 26, to allow clarification on a number of issues, including insurance, municipal responsibility, and to get more details on the project.
Notice on Title delay
A plan to deliver a Notice on Title to a Kaslo homeowner was put on hold for a month. Staff said a procedural oversight prompted the delay until the next council meeting.
A report to council said the owner of 34 Duthie “has been advised of the need for a valid Building Permit and has not complied,” thus prompting the notice. However, staff omitted giving the owner an “opportunity to be heard, before Council considers the recommendation from the Building Official.”
The property owner will be given the opportunity to present his case before council decides if it will proceed.
A Notice on Title informs anyone searching the title that a breach of municipal bylaws or regulations has occurred on the property.
Council gave final approval to its Permissive Tax Exemptions Bylaw, forgiving the municipal portion of property taxes for 22 community groups. In all, just over $106,000 in taxes are being forgiven.
Fall strategy session
With dozens of demands, pressures and project deadlines facing council and the Village staff, it’s important that everyone is clear on what jobs take priority. Council will be holding a Strategic Planning session on November 13.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice