Amendments to bylaws redefine good neighbours in Penticton

Penticton takes aim at pigeons and unsightly sidewalks with amendments to Good Neighbour bylaw.

Along with derelict houses and other nuisance properties, the City of Penticton is taking aim at pigeons in the latest update to the Good Neighbour bylaw introduced last year.

According to Anthony Haddad, director of development services, staff are receiving an increasing number of complaints about the feeding and roosting of pigeons in the city. But until this week, the city was without a specific bylaw referencing the problem on private property.

An amendment brought to council this week makes it illegal to feed or attract pigeons “such that the pigeons cause a nuisance” and includes a $100 fine for the offender. Haddad said the majority of the complaints come from the downtown area, as well as the southern part of the city.

The new pigeon bylaw is intended to give bylaw enforcement tools dealing with nuisances and health risks specific to pigeons like roosting and nesting, or pigeons that defecate on property, things or persons located there.

Coun. Helena Konanz questioned whether the city didn’t already have a bylaw against the feeding of wildlife. There are two already, Haddad admitted, one prohibiting the feeding of deer, and another stopping people from feeding waterfowl on parkland in the city.

“Isn’t it a good idea for us to have generally a feeding-of-the-wildlife bylaw infraction as opposed to naming lions and tigers and bears and everyone else we shouldn’t be feeding?” asked Coun. Wes Hopkin, echoing Konanz’ question.

Haddad said the nuisance complaints related to pigeons were more appropriately located in the Good Neighbour bylaw, which would also be the best place to consolidate a don’t feed the animals bylaw.

Council gave the amendment it’s first three readings, and are expected to vote on it at their Nov. 4 meeting.

Penticton is also hoping to clean up the streets with a bylaw aimed at making property owners responsible for the sidewalks in front of their homes.

Responsibility for maintenance of these areas, including snow removal, grass cutting and removal of litter is often not clear, according to Haddad.

The new amendment to the Good Neighbour bylaw clarifies the situation by making maintenance the responsibility of the owners and residents whose property directly fronts the boulevard or sidewalk in question.

“The majority of these areas in the city are maintained already by the adjacent property owners and the proposed amendments formalize the situation,” said Haddad, noting that the Community Charter gives B.C. municipalities the right to create such bylaws.

Haddad said most B.C. municipalities already have similar bylaws, including Kelowna, Vernon, Oliver and Osoyoos, but in Penticton, the current bylaw only restricts the placement of gardening waste in lanes or boulevards.

A boulevard, by the way, is that space between your property line and the curb.

Not only will the upkeep and cleanliness of the sidewalks be the responsibility of nearby property owners, they are also going to be expected to maintain any landscaping in the boulevard area, not just watering and cutting the grass, but seeding and weeding, as well as trimming any small shrubs in the area.

“The only exception to this requirement is for tree pruning and cutting trees away from electrical lines,” said Haddad. “The city will continue to ensure that trees on city property not conflict with the electrical lines.”

The amendment got its first three readings, and will be coming back to council for adoption at a later meeting. Some councillors, however, expressed concern over following this path, including Hopkin and Konanz, who were the only votes in opposition.

“I think the last time it came to council, it was defeated,” said Hopkin, comparing it to the snow removal bylaw, which causes hardship for some community members.

“I am somewhat hesitant to do this, because there are some that can’t take care of the boulevards in front of their homes,” he said.

“With snow removal, it’s usually a question of safety. But this is just because it is admittedly unkempt and it doesn’t look nice. I wonder whether or not it is a burden we are placing on people to basically take care of property that is not their own. It is public property we are forcing them to take care of.”

Though he voted in support, Mayor Garry Litke also expressed concerns, especially over varying interpretations of the wording “reasonable standard.”

“I would hate to see someone who can’t afford it get fined because of some physical disability or over some dispute in what the standard of the boulevard should be. I am a bit nervous of this one.”

Coun. Katie Robinson supported the amendment, arguing that it wouldn’t be a hardship, and that neighbours would help those for who it was.

“Most people take on that responsibility when they take on home ownership. They want to have pride in their homes and their city,” said Robinson.

“Honestly, I think it’s time that maybe Penticton could pull up their socks a little bit in that direction and have a tidier town and one that we could all be proud of.”