Port Alberni city council has agreed to impose remedial action on two “unsightly” city properties, including a property on Margaret Street where a house caught fire earlier this month.
The two properties, located on 10th Avenue and Margaret Street, were identified and reviewed by the city’s new Nuisance Property Working Group. The first, located at 2808 10th Avenue, owes $2,536 to the city for unpaid bylaw tickets and $4,519.80 in contracting fees, and continues to receive ongoing calls in relation to “nuisance behaviour.” The bylaw services department has sent out five formal letters and conducted 16 on-site inspections, but has not received compliance from the owner, Lori Strickland, who does not reside on the property.
“It’s been inspected on a number of occasions and it’s been determined that there are health and safety issues regarding the sanitation within the building as well as unsafe materials within and on the exterior of the premises,” said bylaw services manager Flynn Scott on Monday, March 11. “For a property to take up this amount of resources, it’s pretty pressing.”
Scott emphasized to council that progressive action is always taken first when it comes to nuisance properties. The bylaw services department seeks voluntary compliance and will follow up with letters, fines, tickets and site inspections.
“It’s only when city staff have exhausted every option available…that these files are brought forward to you,” said Scott.
Council voted to declare the property a nuisance under the Community Charter, through which council has the authority to impose remedial action requirements. Strickland has 30 days to fully remediate the property and 14 days to appeal council’s decision. After the 30 days, city staff will be able to enter the building and take on the work which—at this point—does not include demolition.
Councillor Ron Paulson said on Monday that it’s unfortunate that the situation has become so backlogged.
“They’ve really left us with no choice here,” he said.
The second property, located at 4781 Margaret St., is owned by Steven Boden, who has not resided on site “for some time.” A structural fire took place on March 2, and the building was boarded to prevent re-entry by “several occupants” who were not authorized by Boden to be on the property. According to Scott, the house had no electrical service, and the occupants were “accumulating new rubbish and garbage” faster than city staff could clean up after them. RCMP also identified several concerns, including residents attempting to steal electrical power from neighbours.
Scott explained on Monday that 24 violation tickets have been issued to the property. Only five were paid in 2016, by a previous owner, and the outstanding 19 tickets amount to $3,300 owed to the city. The property also owes $2,232 in contractor fees. Five letters have been sent to Boden, seven complaints have been received from different neighbours and 10 formal on-site inspections have taken place, but Scott said Boden has not been in contact with the city since before the fire on March 2.
Council agreed to declare the property a nuisance under the Community Charter, with a recommendation for demolition.
Because of the Margaret Street property and recent house fire, Scott recommended amending the Building Standards Bylaw to give his department more authority to protect people from hazardous, unsafe or uninhabitable conditions.
“The bylaw services department has no authority to take action if immediate safety concerns exist,” said Scott. “This is a pretty strong case in point where enforcement action is needed on a pretty critical and severe case.”
Council agreed to amend the bylaw to include a provision for “vacant premises”—defined as any lot in which electrical and water services have been “intentionally” discontinued so that the premise is not suitable for human habitation. If a property is deemed to be vacant by Scott, it will be boarded to prevent entry until remedial action is taken.