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Vacant building laws put off until budget time

Campbell River city council will wait until next year's budget time to implement laws to crack down on vacant buildings

City council wants to implement laws to crack down on vacant buildings but city staff say the city doesn’t have the time nor the money to enforce such a bylaw.

Mayor Walter Jakeway said at Tuesday night’s council meeting he wanted to proceed with a vacant building bylaw similar to one in the city of Penticton.

“I think it’s important to send a message to the owners of vacant buildings – and we have one of them that’s particularly high profile on Petersen – that people who own vacant buildings, who are allowing them to degrade, need to know we’re taking a stand,” Jakeway said. “To delay it makes them think we don’t have teeth in our bylaws.”

City Clerk Peter Wipper, however, recommended council hold off until a review of city operations can be done during the 2015 budget deliberations next January and February.

Wipper said a new vacant building bylaw, modelled after Penticton’s, would be difficult to administer. If the city were to use Penticton’s bylaw, owners of vacant residential buildings in Campbell River would be required to pay $3,560 in annual fees and vacant commercial and industrial building owners would have to pay $7,120 over two years. Wipper said Penticton’s bylaw enforcement is done under a pro-active regime whereas Campbell River’s is complaint-driven.

“The actual number of vacant buildings in the city is unknown, however, it is estimated that there are between 30 to 50,” Wipper said. “Monthly inspections and proactive enforcement by a bylaw officer is estimated (to) take (the) existing officer approximately one day a week to administer (20 per cent of his time).”

Coun. Andy Adams said Tuesday night that after reading through Wipper’s report, he would like to see a report from city staff with options on how to lower the costs before going forward.

“I think this needs to be taken seriously and as such, I’m making the amendment that a report to council come back before financial planning so council has an opportunity to talk through the pros and cons of the vacant building regulations before it gets to financial planning,” he said.

Council voted in favour of having city staff come back with the report, which may include recommendations such as requiring owners to register their vacant buildings with the city and require any openings to be boarded up with specified materials. Jakeway said the city needs to speed up the process and rectify the situation sooner rather than later. “We’d be sending a message to people...that if you have buildings that are dilapidated, that it’s time to get with it,” Jakeway said. “Hopefully some of them will take notice and fix the problem before we get there; but we will be coming.”