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City of Campbell River endorses Spirit Square glass removal and other downtown safety measures

Downtown Safety Select Committee report contains a number of recommendations

Campbell River City Council endorsed the recommendations from the Downtown Safety Select Committee at its committee of the whole meeting on March 23.

The recommendations still have to be adopted by council, which can happen at a regular council meeting. However, this endorsement is the first step towards adoption and implementation.

The select committee was made up of local business owners in the downtown area. Over the course of their four-month term, they met 14 times and shared feedback from local businesses, residents, non profits, social service agencies, stakeholders and subject matter experts.

A report from the committee of the whole meeting reads: “While recognizing that virtually all of the downtown problems are rooted in poverty, addiction, and mental health, the committee noted that, ‘without adequate funding and a winning strategy at the provincial government level, municipalities will continue to struggle with endlessly (and expensively) treating the symptoms.’ “

“It is the goal of the committee to assist staff and Council in balancing the public’s need for a clean, safe, and usable downtown, without losing sight of the need for patience and compassion for the city’s vulnerable population,” it continued.

The main recommendations were to encourage downtown development through capital investment and to lobby the provincial government for more mental health and addictions facilities in the province.

Also, on a more tangible level locally, council endorsed allocating funds for the “immediate removal of the permanent glass cover over the Spirit Square stage,” up to an estimated cost of $5,000. Also endorsed was the expansion of the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) grant program, up to $4,000, which funds projects that use urban and architectural design to reduce crime; improvements to the BC Hydro box at 13 avenue and Shoppers Row, up to $10,000; the installation of garbage cans, up to $25,000; expansion of the security camera program, up to $25,000; continuing to fund the Get the Point program up to $30,000; and expanding the infill street light program up to $15,000.

Costs are to be covered by the $225,000 downtown safety fund council established in December, 2020.

“The select committee agreed that the main problem areas affecting local businesses and residents are related to cleanliness and lawlessness,” reads the report.

Some recommendations of the select committee were less immediate, but the committee wanted council to direct staff to investigate them. These included incentives to encourage social services to relocate, potentially to specific areas through zoning bylaw amendments, bylaw amendments to limit or restrict shopping carts in specific areas, enabling earlier hours for bylaw enforcement to deal with encampment removals before business hours, creating a strategy to align city and private interests downtown, speeding up residential developments and improvements and, finally, looking into a way to charge businesses for disproportionate use of emergency services.

RELATED: Proposed Spirit Square glass removal disables sheltered gathering place, advocates say

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