Pubdate: Wed, 22 Mar 2006
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Mark Brett
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)


A controversial proposed city bylaw intended to discourage the use of 
local residential property for drug-related activities such as 
grow-ops and crystal meth labs, is back before council.

Introduced in 2004, the original document came under attack from a 
variety of groups including landlords and tenants who felt its terms 
and conditions were too severe.

The major changes contained in the new bylaw, which received second 
and third reading at Monday's regular meeting of council, included 
the removal of the provision requiring residences be inspected by 
owners every 90 days.

As well, the maximum fine facing owners whose properties are being 
used for such activities is to be reduced from $10,000 to $5,000.

The term owner has also been expanded to include any person who has 
any right, title, estate or interest in the property including an 
agent of that person.

Those were three of the main issues raised by members of the public 
at the public hearing on the bylaw in Oct. 2004.

According to city staff, at the time only a handful of municipalities 
in the province had passed such bylaws, however, since then a greater 
number have put similar legislation in place, resulting in a 
reduction in the drug trade in their communities.

"We looked at a lot of bylaws throughout the province and the one 
that we've got, we're pretty confident has the best of everything out 
there and when I say the best of everything, I mean it looks after 
our needs as well as it addresses the needs of some of the people 
that had expressed some reservations on it," said Jack Kler, the 
city's director of corporate services.

"We put a lot of those recommendations (from the public hearing) into 
the new bylaw and I don't think there will be any more changes."

However Dianne McEvoy, who manages several city properties for 
friends who live outside of Canada, wasn't sure the changes make the 
new bylaw any more palatable for landlords.

"That addresses the three (issues) but it doesn't address the other 
five that I had major issues with," said McEvoy who organized a 
petition against the original bylaw. "The biggest one to me is 
they're putting everything on the owner and there was nothing ever 
stated in the bylaw about what efforts and endeavours they were going 
to take to go after the person who was doing the illegal grow op.

"I just thought the whole bylaw totally sucked because it put the 
total onus on the property owner and not the criminal. It's still a 
bone of contention with me that how dare you fine and penalize me for 
something that a tenant did."

She compared it to having tenants who move out in the middle of the 
night leaving the landlord with a hefty utility bill and no recourse 
to recover the money.

"You're damned if you do and your damned if you don't," said McEvoy. 
"If you don't report it and they find out about it, its hefty fines 
and penalties and if you do report it, then its heavy costs to do the 
inspections and cleaning and everything else that's required pursuant 
to the bylaw."

She suggested the city should first seek restitution from the guilty 
tenants; including confiscating their property, before going after the owners.

The bylaw is scheduled to come back before council at the April 3 
meeting at which time elected officials have indicated they will give 
the public an opportunity to speak on the matter.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom