By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on September 22, 2023.
A city councillor wants a closer look at what can be done to compel the cleanup of derelict properties in the city.
Coun. Shila Sharps signalled this week that she wants council to formally request options to pressure property owners to clean up problem buildings.
“We’ve got to quit blaming our bylaw officers when the (written) bylaw is weak,” she told the News on Monday. “I’ve had enough of walking around on the weekends downtown, getting coffee and feeling that things are getting worse.
“I think the (written) bylaw and the way it is written could be way more impactful. So that there is some punch behind it.”
Technically, Sharps made a notice of motion meaning she will bring a resolution to the Oct. 3 meeting asking for council to order a review of the “unsightly property bylaw” and potential options to stiffen penalties or other measures.
The current bylaw, last amended in 2011, gives bylaw enforcement officers the ability to order the removal of weeds, “dismantled vehicles,” accumulated material or refuse, as well as general maintenance orders for building exteriors.
If those are not satisfactorily followed, initial fines of $250 to $400 for residential properties, or $500 to $1,000 for businesses, can follow. The city can also hire contractors to complete the work and bill the owner.
Investigations are complaint driven however, and as for buildings, if they are secure – with plywood over windows, for example – there is little bylaw officers can cite.
Sharps says other cities include a requirement of a security system or issue orders to paint exteriors.
In two high profile cases over the last several years, bylaw officers ordered the owner of a vacant home on Dominion Avenue to deal with a bat colony at the address in 2019.
A home on the corner of Maple Avenue and Braemar Street was also issued a cleanup order after complaints about the highly visible rental property. Those orders were met and no fines were issued.