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Municipal Law - Bylaws and resolutions - Enforcement of bylaws - Injunctions - Inspections - Authority to enter property - Grounds for invalidity - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Thursday, March 16, 2017 @ 8:00 PM  

Appeal by property owners from the dismissal of their application for an injunction restraining the Halifax Regional Municipality from entering their land and removing anything from it. The appellants operated an unlicensed salvage yard in the Municipality. The property was divided into two lots. The appellants’ house and garage were located on one lot, which abutted a public road. The second lot was behind the first, was fenced off, and was not visible from the public road. A municipality compliance officer visited the property in response to a complaint. He found that the property did not comply with the municipal Charter concerning dangerous or unsightly premises. He issued four notices relating to debris and derelict vehicles on each lot. The property was re-inspected and some clean-up had occurred. However, the officer was prevented from accessing the back lot. The officer returned with the police and issued four Orders to Remedy corresponding to the four notice violations. The two orders relating to the rear lot were withdrawn, as the appellants were working on obtaining permits to operate a salvage yard. They applied to the Court for an injunction restraining the Municipality from entering their land and removing anything from it. The judge dismissed the application finding that it was a collateral attack on the Orders to Remedy previously issued which had not been appealed. He agreed with the municipality that its Charter was violated even when some debris would not be visible from the road. He found that there was no violation of the appellants’ Charter rights and that remediating the property was not an unreasonable seizure. The appellants appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The judge did not err in finding that the application was a collateral attack on the remediation orders. There was no public duty on the Municipality to hear appeals of the Orders to Remedy the front parcel, served more than three years ago. At the time that the orders were served, the appellants did not have a permit to operate a salvage yard. Their front yard was unsightly and dangerous, as it was littered with disused and inoperable vehicles, construction materials, automotive parts, equipment, machinery, wheels, tires and the like. The municipal Charter was not overbroad. The power to enter the property and remediate naturally followed from the appellants’ failure to act on the orders and so it was necessary to ensure compliance. In addition, the statutory power to inspect was further to a legitimate regulatory purpose and therefore did not offend s. 8 of the Charter. Any potential seizure of property would have been incidental to remediation and was reasonable to ensure compliance.