City looking at new tools to deal with nuisance properties

 

Council has unanimously endorsed a bylaw that is designed to address the recovery of RCMP and staff costs from the owners of properties where there have been repeated calls for service related to bylaw infractions or other nuisances.

Coun. Brian Skakun got the ball rolling last summer when he presented a notice of motion asking staff to prepare a report on recovering such costs. The result is the bylaw that was given its first three readings Monday.

The Community Charter already empowers the municipality to give remedial action orders for items such buildings and structures that are hazardous or so dilapidated or unclean as to be offensive to the community. In contrast, the new bylaw will be directed more at conduct or behaviour of owners and occupiers of property which give rise to or cause a nuisance.

If the source of the nuisance is the physical condition of a building or structure as opposed to the conduct of the owners or occupants of the building, then the appropriate remedy would still be to proceed with a remedial action order under the Community Charter.

The new bylaw, if given fourth reading:

  • prohibits the use of land by an owner or occupier in a manner that creates a nuisance;
  • requires the owner or occupier of land to abate any nuisance that they create or allow to occur on the property that they own or occupy;
  • provides city council with the authority to order the owner or occupier of premises to abate a nuisance on or emanating from the premises;
  • authorizes the city through its employees, the RCMP or contractors to enter onto property and to abate a nuisance at the cost of the owner/occupier, where an owner/occupier fails to abate the nuisance (once having been ordered to do so by city council);
  • sets out a schedule of the hourly fees/rates that would be used to determine the cost of abatement that the owner/occupier is responsible for; and
  • provides that the city may, amongst other things, recover the cost of abating a nuisance in the same manner as property taxes.

Before the City can start charging for RCMP, fire department, bylaw enforcement, or other staff attendance at the property, the situation will need to have escalated to the point where city staff consider the matter serious enough to warrant council’s involvement. In other words, the bylaw does not allow the city to send a bill to any property owner on a “one off” basis simply because the RCMP responded to an isolated complaint.

“This is important to people in the community,” said Skakun. “People are tired of subsidizing property owners who don’t look after their property. For them to be wilfully blind to what goes in their own premises is not going to carry weight anymore. People in the community are tired of subsidizing this bad behaviour. Their taxes are paying RCMP costs, first costs, and staff costs.”

He pointed to the Connaught Inn there were about 700 calls over an 18-month period, saying it takes takes RCMP and bylaw services away from dealing with other issues.