Even though the City of Penticton has yet to adopt their “good neighbour” bylaw, city staff are working under existing regulations to start the cleanup of unsightly properties.
Residents of the area around Queen’s Park Elementary will be relieved to find their neighbourhood on the top of the list, with the city voting to identify a long-term derelict house there as a “declared nuisance,” requiring remedial action to demolish the fire-damaged structure and level the site.
“This has been a cause for concern in the neighbourhood for a numbers of years, in particular to the occupants of Queen’s Park Elementary school, just three doors down,” said Coun. Garry Litke. “At that school where they are trying to teach self-esteem and pride in the neighbourhood, pride in the school and pride in themselves, it is really hard to do with a property like this right on your doorstep. I really hope we are ready to clean it up and bring some integrity back to the neighbourhood.”
It was in February 2007 that a fire gutted the interior of the small house on Basset Street. Five years later, the shell of the building is still standing, though in a much decayed condition.
The intervening years have been filled with back and forth issues with the property owners, Malvindar and Harbans Randhawa, along with increasing complaints from nearby residents about the deteriorating condition of the building and property. The Randhawas now have 30 days, starting April 16, to clean up the property or the city will do it for them, and send them the bill.
Mayor Dan Ashton said council intends to continue on this path, both with the Basset Street property and other problem sites in the city, though he is hopeful the Randhawas will come up with a solution of their own before the city is forced to take further action.
“I have to say that the owner has approached me saying he is bringing something to the city,” said Ashton. “Hopefully this time, what he brings in will come to fruition and we give him the opportunity of improvement that is direly needed in that area.”
To date, said Ken Kunka, building and permitting manager for the city, there have been nine case files opened regarding the property.
“The original file was opened on March 5, 2007, under an initial report from the fire department,” said Kunka. “Staff has spent numerous man hours dealing with the property by way of dealing with the complaints, inspections, trying to work with the property owners in a proactive manner to clean up the property for the good of the entire community.”
Kunka has a long list of those interactions, including a 2008 application to construct a duplex on the property and a 2009 demolition permit, both cancelled by the owner. Along with those, Kunka notes, there have been several bylaw enforcement orders for unsightly and unsecured premises.
“The property owners have taken no proactive approach to maintain the property in a tidy and secure manner unless directed by the bylaw enforcement or fire departments,” said Kunka.
“Five years that there is paper trail on this and there has been no action on this, which probably speaks to why we are moving forward on trying to develop and put some teeth into a vacant and derelict building bylaw,” said Coun. Andrew Jakubeit.
The proposed good neighbour bylaw should come back to council at the April 16 meeting, and if passed, give the city greater ability to deal with properties like the one on Bassett, including charging owners a yearly fee to register vacant and derelict properties as well as fine them for non compliance.
“Derelict buildings and properties discourage economic development and also negatively impact the appreciation of the neighbouring property values, said Kunka. “Vacant and derelict buildings negatively impact the image of the city in regard to both tourism and attracting business and new residents.”
Anthony Haddad, director of development services, said there are a number of properties that staff is looking at bringing forward to council, a process that will increase with the adoption of the good neighbour bylaw.
“That will certainly, when that is implemented, make it a lot easier to deal with these problem buildings,” he said. “We will certainly be targeting those problem buildings that are out there right now, and that will be good for the city.”