Protest last month about the amendment to the Good Neighbour Bylaw. (Western News file photo)

City, DPA stand behind changes to Okanagan community’s Good Neighbour bylaw

City staff say the changes are meant to target the illict activity taking place downtown

Changes to Penticton’s Good Neighbour bylaw have been in the works for years, according to city staff, and are meant to target the illicit activity affecting the downtown.

Anthony Haddad, director of development services with the city, said the city has consistently heard from business owners in the downtown that certain individuals’ behaviour in the area is affecting their operations. Examples include camping out on sidewalks in front of or near store entrances, engaging in illegal activity such as drug or alcohol use, and overall inappropriate behaviour that impacts staff and customers.

“We have heard a lot of concerns from businesses, not just recently, but over a long period of time. And that’s something we’ve been trying to address through all of the tools the city has put in place over the last few years,” said Haddad. “This is just another tool the city now has to deal with some of the more serious situations.”

The proposed amendment to the bylaw, which is expected to receive its third reading from council on June 4, would allow bylaw officers to ticket individuals for sitting or lying on the sidewalks of Main Street, Front Street and Martin Street from May to Sept. 30. Individuals in violation of the bylaw, once it comes into effect, could face a fine of $100.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Protesters in Penticton gather to rally against sleeping-on-sidewalk bylaw

Haddad said bylaw officers will use discretion when enforcing the changes, and that the fine is a “last resort” for the worst offenders. He said typically, bylaw will partner with other social supports when dealing with this type of bylaw infraction, to ensure individuals can receive the help they may require.

“There’s no intention to fine people as part of this. With any new bylaw we create, we have to create a ticketing offence so that the worst offender for the bylaw infraction can be dealt with through the appropriate process and system,” said Haddad. “The bylaw team are obviously very compassionate with how they would deal with the situation.”

He added that now with warmer weather, multiple businesses will be branching out onto their front sidewalks and from a safety standpoint the bylaw helps reduce obstructions. He said the city has an obligation to support its business owners and the economic vibrancy of the downtown.

READ MORE: Advocate says Penticton bylaw targeting less fortunate

“We are hearing from businesses that (certain people’s) behaviour is unacceptable. They are asking for their female staff to be walked to their cars, so those are the kind of things that we have to get ahead of,” said Lynn Allin, the Downtown Penticton Association’s executive director. “So the DPA is completely in support of the changes to the Good Neighbour bylaw, and we’re hoping that we’ll see some really positive things.”

Haddad also highlighted the fact that the city and council have been very compassionate with implementing social supports for the city’s homeless and vulnerable. Housing for the city’s homeless will be ready by September 1 when the 62 modular units under construction on Winnipeg Street are completed.

In addition, construction on affordable housing is taking place at 285 Nanaimo Ave. W. and will see 56 units available to the city’s residents facing poverty thanks to OneSky Community Resources. Construction is also being done at 2604 Skaha Lake Rd. to renovate a former motel into a permanent shelter, which will feature 20 beds and accommodate pets.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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A Christmas dinner held last year at Nanaimo Square for the homeless (Western News file photo)

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