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Governance &
Structure Division
 

Inter-Municipal Regulation

 

Section 14 of the Community Charter provides for joint regulation by two or more municipalities that want to use the same set of regulations and possibly enforcement mechanisms. This may interest municipalities in close proximity to each other for the following reasons:

  • to provide a more consistent and predictable business friendly regulatory environment;
  • to ensure the regulatory system is efficient, effective and less costly;
  • to assure citizens that regulations are meeting community objectives.

Inter-municipal regulation can be used for joint action on any matter for which municipalities have authority, such as:

  • a common regulation for business;
  • joint enforcement using a common ticketing bylaw; and
  • sharing bylaw enforcement officers across municipal boundaries.

Inter-municipal regulation may focus on one particular activity (e.g., business operations), or may include regulations on a combination of activities (e.g., business operations and water conservation).
 

Note: The Ministry, in partnership with the UBCM and the business community, has developed the Regulatory Best Practices Guide.
 

When to consider

In many parts of the province, municipalities exist in tight clusters, either directly adjacent, or in close proximity, to one another. Within these clusters municipalities, citizens and businesses often see themselves as sharing a common community, or a common market, with shared interests and goals. The ability of municipalities to achieve shared goals is enhanced when there is a high degree of regulatory consistency among the various jurisdictions. When such consistency is lacking, the differences in regulations may undermine the municipalities’ objectives, and frustrate business.
 

Consider some examples.

  • Air Quality: Two adjacent municipalities agree that air quality is an important issue that transcends municipal boundaries. However, the absence of, or different, backyard burning restrictions may limit the effectiveness of individual efforts to protect air quality. One municipality’s efforts are futile if neighbouring jurisdictions do not follow suit.
  • Economic Development Promotion. Two municipalities, twenty kilometres apart, recognize that prospective businesses, residents and tourists will be attracted by the area's broader aesthetic appeal, more than by the specific qualities of the individual communities. The lack of a common approach to matters such as signage, landscaping and regulating unsightly premises could result in an inconsistent image that diminishes the region's economic potential.
  • Business Friendly Regulation. Municipalities and businesses in a regional district recognize that separate business licensing in each municipality is frustrating businesses and increasing costs. They agree to an Inter-Municipal Business Licence Agreement and develop a common business licence, flat licence fee and licensing procedures which enable businesses to operate simultaneously in all municipalities.

The pursuit of shared goals may provide the impetus for most inter-municipal regulation. It may also be prompted by a desire to deal with the unintended, cross-boundary impacts of one jurisdiction's regulatory actions.
 

Consider an example.

  • Regulations introduced by one municipality to restrict the operations of a certain class of business (e.g., "adult" businesses) may result in the relocation of these businesses to a neighbouring municipality where fewer rules are in effect.  To address this unintended impact, the two municipalities may agree to adopt a common set of regulations.

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What to consider

 
Rationale
  • Is inter-municipal regulation the right tool to deal with the issue?
  • Can the issue be dealt with through the regional district?
  • Are there other options to deal with the issue? (i.e. non-regulatory)

Scope

  • What is the appropriate scope of the inter-municipal regulation?
  • Should the regulation focus on one specific matter, or is there a range of activities and issues that should be targeted?
  • Is this proposed regulatory activity within the scope of municipal powers?
  • Is this a concurrent regulatory authority?
  • Have all of the process requirements been considered?

Municipalities may wish to adopt a modest approach that focuses on one issue that is clearly of common concern. The participants can always agree at a later stage to expand their cooperation to address other matters.
 

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Regulations

  • Which set of regulations should apply?
  • Do the participants agree that one municipality's existing bylaw is best suited to achieving the shared goal(s), or to addressing the unintended cross-boundary impacts of one municipality's actions?
  • Do changes need to be made to the bylaw before giving it wide application?
  • Should the shared bylaw completely replace existing local regulations, or can the two coexist?
  • Can the chosen regulations be applied throughout the whole of each participating municipality, or do parts of a given municipality need to be removed from the regulated area?
  • What rules need to be in place to govern amendments to the regulations?

Governance, Administration and Enforcement

  • Who provides policy direction and oversight for the inter-municipal regulation?
  • Should the councils establish a commission or committee to oversee the function?
  • How will the regulations be administered?
  • How will regulations be enforced?
  • Will each municipality be responsible for administration and enforcement within its own boundaries?
  • Should authority for administration and enforcement be delegated by each council to one participant?
  • Who decides administration and enforcement priorities?
  • Should administration and enforcement be handled by a joint governance body like a commission?
  • Are there liability concerns with having one municipality exercise its authority in another municipality?

Certain participants may not have the resources to administer and enforce the regulations. In this case, it may be advantageous to delegate these functions to one jurisdiction. In situations where resources are widely available, delegating these functions to one municipality may result in the most consistent application of the regulations, and, as such, may be preferred. In other cases, a decentralized or shared administrative model may be best.
 

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Cost and Revenue

  • What will it cost a municipality to establish an inter-municipal regulation?
  • What will it cost, on an ongoing basis, for the municipality to participate?
  • Who will be responsible for distributing revenues to participating municipalities?
  • On what basis will common development and operating costs be shared by the participants?

The allocation of common costs may depend on each municipality's willingness to pay, which, in turn, may depend on the municipality's anticipated benefit from participating. A municipality that expects to receive a significant benefit may be willing to pay a larger share of the costs than other participants. Where benefits are evenly spread, common costs may be best allocated on the basis of converted assessment, population or some other equitable measure.
 

Review

  • Should the parties arrange for regular, formal reviews of the arrangement, or less formal reviews on an as-needed basis?
  • Regular, formal reviews may encourage participants to assess the health of the arrangement and deal with small concerns before they become more serious.

Withdrawal

  • What should be the requirements for withdrawal by any one participant?
  • Should withdrawal be a simple or an onerous matter?

Dispute Resolution

  • Should there be formal dispute resolution processes?
  • Should the process be tailored to the municipalities or is the process provided for in the Community Charter sufficient?

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How to proceed

Municipalities interested in inter-municipal regulation may consider adopting an approach that includes several steps.
 

Identify opportunity or need
The following subjects relate to issues that are important to neighbouring municipalities and may provide the opportunity to establish an inter-municipal regulation. This list is not exhaustive:

  • business operations;
  • illegal dumping;
  • waste reduction;
  • animal control;
  • noise and nuisance control;
  • unsightly premises;
  • fire prevention;
  • quality of rental housing;
  • signage and air quality.

The opportunity or need could be identified by any number of sources in a municipality, including staff, a member of council, a citizens' group, business organizations, an individual citizen or the media. Alternatively, an opportunity or need could be identified by another municipality or group of municipalities.
 

At the idea stage, consideration could be given to alternatives to inter-municipal regulation. For some issues, regional district regulation may be more appropriate.
 

Exploration of Interests
The scope of the inter-municipal regulation will need to be consistent with the scope of municipal legislative authority. If the issue under consideration for inter-municipal regulation is in an area of concurrent regulatory authority, careful attention should be given to the process requirements associated with that particular authority.
 

The answers to the following questions will help determine if there are common interests which can provide a basis for joint regulation.

  • What is the municipality's interest in the issue, or issues, that are being considered for inclusion in an inter-municipal regulation?
  • What are the interests of the other municipalities that may participate in the scheme?

If prospective participants share common objectives, this provides a basis to discuss how to structure the inter-municipal regulation. In addition, the interests of those who would be impacted by the inter-municipal regulation need to be considered. This may include business groups, community and environmental organizations.
 

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Structure of the Function
Every inter-municipal regulation will involve the application of a common set of rules across the participating jurisdictions. The exact structure will vary based on local circumstances, needs and preferences.
 

In determining the most appropriate structure, participants need to consider some important issues. The first six apply to any inter-municipal regulation. The last three are unique to an inter-jurisdictional regulation.

  • scope of the joint regulation;
  • rules that will apply;
  • governance;
  • administration of permit and licensing;
  • enforcement of the regulation;
  • establishing and operating costs;
  • process for reviewing;
  • withdrawal of participants; and
  • dispute resolution.

Implementation
It is important that the participating municipalities have an agreement or memorandum of understanding which codifies the expectations of the parties. This sets the stage for developing an implementation plan. The plan should include a provision that each municipality pass a bylaw that outlines the key structural characteristics of the inter-municipal regulation (see Community Charter s.14(2)).
 

Please direct questions or comments to Advisory Services Branch.
 

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