Penticton urged to move faster on unsightly properties

Councillor and resident wonder if there's a way to more quickly deal with eyesores that are bringing down neighbourhoods

Penticton is moving ahead on cleaning up nuisance and unsightly properties, but some are saying the city needs to move faster.

Two weeks ago, city council voted unanimously to declare 363 Churchill Ave. a nuisance property. Tuesday, at their regular council meeting, they did the same for 555 Wade Ave.

According to Ken Kunka, building and permitting manager, the property has been vacant for many years, and while the building seems to be structurally sound, he was seeking the ability to take remedial action to remove the building and clean up the property.

“It has been a very difficult case to follow up with the property owners, and we have sought legal counsel regarding this,” said Kunka, noting that the case files, which date back to 2008, include a visit by the RCMP in July 2013 to collect stolen bicycles being stored on the property.

“We can deal with untidiness, but we believe the problem is with the home being vacant and boarded attracting criminal activities,” said Kunka. “We believe that moving ahead with removal would be in the best consideration of the community.”

Designating a property as a nuisance opens the way for city staff to take aggressive action to clean up the properties, after giving the owners a 30-day grace period to take action themselves. The owners are also given a chance to plead their case before council, which the owners of the Churchill property did not take on Sept. 3.

In the case of the Wade property, realtor Rick Appleton came forward to speak for owners Ming Leung and Shun Yi Chen, assuring council the state of the property would be addressed.

“I put it on the market today,” said Appleton, noting that the non-resident owners do not speak English, accounting for some of the communication problems. “I have told them it has to be cleaned up and they are in agreement to that. Probably within the week.”

While it looks like these two properties will soon be taken care of, there are more problem sites in the city, and Coun. Helena Konanz wants to speed up the process.

“If we really want to continue with the momentum of cleaning up the city of this type of problem, maybe we can bring forward six or seven at a time,” said Konanz.

Moving quicker is also what Eileen Cain would like to see. A resident in a mobile home park, she wants bylaw officers to step up enforcement when they see offending properties, rather than waiting for a complaint from neighbours.

“If you want to get them to do anything, you have to personally phone and report your neighbour, so you have to end up being the bad guy, even though the bylaw people drive through the park, they see it, they know it, they know there is a fire hazard in here and yet, when it comes to walking the talk, you can’t get anything done,” said Cain, adding that the problem isn’t limited to her home.

“This isn’t about low end or high end, this is about Penticton in general, all over,” she said. “People do not take pride in their property and when other people try to sell, it is jeopardizing their chances.”

According to Anthony Haddad, director of development services, there were about 40 properties listed that had some concern or a nuisance.

“The majority of those have been dealt with, but there are some remaining ones. We can look at bringing them forward a little quicker,” said Haddad “We still have to look at giving the owner an opportunity to speak before council, so they have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.”