Little can be done to beautify vacant downtown lots, Penticton city council told

A map provided by the City of Penticton shows the location of vacant lots in the city's downtown.
Image Credit: City of Penticton

PENTICTON - The number of vacant properties in the Penticton's downtown core continues to trouble council.

The enhancement of the city’s 24 vacant lots is part of Penticton’s downtown revitalization plan. There are incentives in place to encourage development, but so far, few takers.

General Manager of Infrastructure Mitch Moroziuk discusses the issue in a report to council, pointing out the city’s limitations in delivering “disincentives” to landowners in efforts to make the vacant properties more aesthetic.

Punitive taxation can’t be used to force improvements, Moroziuk noted, adding the city can set separate tax rates for different property classes, but land in the same property class had to be treated the same way for taxation purposes. 

The city does have regulatory powers to force clean up properties, Moroziuk says, but owners also have the right to let the lots lie undeveloped in perpetuity as long as the they don't become a nuisance or unsightly.

A consultant’s study reached the conclusion existing legislation favoured the use of incentives rather than disincentives to enhance vacant lots.

Moroziuk offered five possible options for council’s consideration:

- Leasing the vacant lands by the city, who could then landscape them, at a cost to the city.
- Enacting a bylaw that offered additional incentives specifically aimed at development or beautification.
- Stepping up bylaw enforcement on vacant lands.
- Get together with other municipalities to bring the issue of allowing disincentives forward to the next UBCM meeting.
- Maintaining the status quo.

Council voted to step up bylaw enforcement and work towards bringing the issue forward to the next Union of B.C. Municipalities conference.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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