City wants to crack down on vacant buildings

The city may be cracking down on owners of vacant buildings in response to a resident’s complaint to city council a year ago

The city may be cracking down on owners of vacant buildings in response to a resident’s complaint to city council just over a year ago.

City staff have come up with a list of recommendations for council to help deal with derelict buildings that are an eyesore to the community.

At the top of the list is a requirement for property owners to register vacant buildings with the city.

“Creating a registry would provide the city with the opportunity to inform owners of their responsibility to maintain vacant buildings and schedule inspections,” wrote City Clerk Peter Wipper in a report to council. “Based on staff resources it is recommended that the city implement a pro-active inspection schedule once every six months. The vacant building registry would be kept confidential to help maintain the security of the building.”

Staff are also suggesting council adopt standards of exterior building maintenance, as well as boarding standards.

“There are times when a vacant building must be boarded up and made secure in order to prevent unauthorized entry,” Wipper said. “The bylaw does not, however, provide boarding standards which has resulted in poorly secured and unsightly vacant buildings. Adding standards would help prevent unauthorized entry and reduce unsightliness.”

The last recommendation is to implement a $100 per year per property vacant building inspection fee.

The crackdown on vacant buildings was brought to council’s attention by Campbell River resident Darlyne Shane when she made a presentation to council on April 29, 2014 on the merits of adopting vacant building regulations similar to those adopted by the City of Penticton.

Council liked the idea of Penticton’s bylaw which is designed to help prevent vacant buildings from falling into disrepair and address safety issues, but city staff had some concerns with adopting something similar in Campbell River.

The main issue was that the regulations would require significant staff time to administer, something Campbell River doesn’t have.

At the time city staff were comparing the bylaws, Penticton had four bylaw officers compared to Campbell River’s one.

However, during this year’s budget deliberations, city council approved hiring a second bylaw officer which city hall is in the middle of recruiting.

Wipper said once the second officer is in place, the city will be in a better position to take a more proactive approach, rather than how it currently operates on a complaint-driven basis.

Wipper said city staff are initially recommending a six-month inspection schedule of vacant buildings which would be feasible once the second bylaw officer is in place.

“Staff are recommending that inspections be done every six months which would require one officer to spend up to five hours per month based on a vacant building registry of 30-60 buildings,” Wipper said. “In addition to inspections there would be time spent administering the regulations and registry.”

In the meantime, Wipper said city staff have placed a greater emphasis on derelict buildings and as a result have placed remedial action notices on two properties requiring that they be demolished. One of the homes, on the corner of Petersen and Cheviot Road, was torn down months ago and a fire damaged home below the Eagles Nest Motel is set to be demolished.

Wipper said the city has also begun registering bylaw contravention notices on the title of properties that do not comply with building code or bylaw regulations.