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Bylaws passed in Powell River set standards, stipulate penalties for vacant and derelict buildings

Standards and penalties set out for non-compliance
ENFORCEMENT TOOLS: Powell River city councillors passed bylaws to deal with property and building maintenance, and municipal ticket information, to deal with unsightly or dangerous conditions. In the photo above, debris is cleared from the location of the former Inn at Westview building, which no longer stands.

City of Powell River council passed two bylaws that set standards and stipulate penalties for vacant and derelict buildings, and property that is not being maintained.

At the May 20 city council meeting, councillors adopted the property and building maintenance standards bylaw, and amended the municipal ticket information bylaw, both of which provide the city the legislation to deal with buildings and property that represent an eyesore or danger to the public.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said the intent of the property and building maintenance standards bylaw is to protect and enhance the well-being of the community from nuisances, graffiti and unsightly conditions, and to prescribe standards for the maintenance of private property. She said the bylaw pertains to the existence of conditions that are detrimental to the welfare of the residents of the city and contribute substantially and increasingly to the deterioration of neighbourhoods.

“This gives bylaw enforcement staff the tools to work with on unsightly premises,” said Hathaway. “It covers things like noxious weeds, vacant houses and sets the standard for the community. It also gives us some tools with some pretty hefty fines. If you don’t abide by the bylaw, you can get a pretty hefty fine, while at the same time there is a nice appeal process without going through the courts. It’s an appeal process to city council if somebody feels they didn’t get a fair shake.

“Overall, it’s a great tool and it’s going to keep our city at a fine standard.”

Councillor George Doubt said while Hathaway was speaking, he was thinking back to the time when he was contemplating running for city council and the city had a major problem that was controversial, with a deteriorating building in the centre of town, and without the proper tools to deal with it.

“This bylaw has been carefully prepared over a period of time and I’m really happy to see it coming forward to protect the city in the future,” said Doubt.

Council unanimously approved both bylaws.

The amendment to the municipal ticket information bylaw sets out a series of fines, ranging from $150 to $1,000, for infractions.

In a media release from the city, chief administrative officer Russell Brewer stated: “There’s no question there has been a history of challenges with some vacant and abandoned buildings in our community. The new bylaw is intended to help the community and the city work proactively with property owners so that unsightly and unsafe buildings can be maintained before they become so derelict that remediation orders and demolition may be required.”

Fire chief Terry Peters stated he supports securing all vacant buildings to prevent unwanted occupancy, as the risk for potential fire is increased and directly attributes to a greater risk for firefighters and neighbouring properties.

The release stated that an important underlying issue the bylaw recognizes is the critical need for housing in Powell River.

“As we heard in the recent qathet regional housing needs report, numerous renters in this community have expressed concerns with their health and safety, living in poorly maintained rental units,” stated regional social planner Kai Okazaki. “One focus of this bylaw provides an important tool for the city to ensure that our existing rental properties are met with standards that ensure quality, safety, liveability and affordability of housing in the city.”