After 80 complaints, owner of derelict Vernon property hasn't got a single fine | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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After 80 complaints, owner of derelict Vernon property hasn't got a single fine

Garbage and graffiti at 2807 35 Street, Vernon.
August 27, 2020 - 7:00 AM

One year after the RCMP raided a known downtown Vernon drug house, the City continues to receive dozens of complaints about the property although the owner has yet to be fined.

The City of Vernon bylaw department says it has received approximately 80 complaints in the last 18 months about the three derelict properties on 35 Street in downtown Vernon.

Largely hidden by trees, the three houses are in various stages of dilapidation having been mostly empty for years, although people were living in one just 12 months ago. Another was gutted by fire several years ago and all three are largely boarded up.

One of the notorious houses was raided by police in August 2019. They discovered heroin and crystal meth, along with cash and stolen goods inside. Shortly before the raid, the nearby residents of McCulloch Court wrote to council listing a multitude of problems with the property which they say was visited by up to 75 people a day.

While the property was subsequently boarded up following the raid, and City of Vernon building inspectors deemed the building unfit for habitation, the complaints haven't let up.

In September 2019, the 35 Street properties had only warranted a handful of complaints to bylaw over the years, mainly about snow and ice or wet leaves on the sidewalk.

READ MORE: Why a city's powers to demolish derelict buildings is limited

After originally denying that the properties were his, owner Dave Nahal told in September 2019 he planned to develop the site.

But one year later, the abandoned houses still sit derelict, vandalized and collecting junk in the yard. There are reports people have been living in one of them. A 'Fire Services Bylaw Vacant Building Notice' pinned to number 2807 has been graffitied, just above a line which says: "It is an offence to remove or deface this notice."

A graffitied notice at 2807 35 Street.
A graffitied notice at 2807 35 Street.

But while defacing the notice is clearly an offence, the City has yet to issue a single fine to Nahal, even after so many complaints.

City of Vernon spokesperson Christy Poirier said in an email that in cases of graffiti, it would be unreasonable to hold the owner accountable. Other complaints received have been for issues that the City cannot issue tickets for, such as needle pick-up. Poirier said other calls found that no bylaw had been broken. On other occasions, it seems the owner was forced to act.

"Our enforcement is compliance-based and in most cases, the property owner has done the work as required in the time frame given by the Bylaw Compliance Department," Poirier said.

The state of three properties has not gone unnoticed by the city's politicians and was a point of discussion at Vernon council's Aug. 17 meeting.

Councillor Scott Anderson said he'd had complaints about the three buildings from a business owner.

Councillors also questioned whether the City had the power to demolish the buildings.

The rear of two of the properties.
The rear of two of the properties.

"To get to a point of demolition of a building without the compliance of the landowner… is a long and arduous and expensive path," City of Vernon chief administrative officer Will Pearce told the meeting. "We’ll focus on compliance first."

Following the meeting, Poirier confirmed the City had a "constructive meeting with the property owner" and will "be holding them more accountable going forward."

Anderson told said he had spoken to the City's administration and they would take a graduated but rapid approach.

"So one way or another this is going to end, the houses are not going to remain derelict like that," he said. "We have a bylaw department that tries to be reasonable... but 80 complaints later and numerous discussions with the owner with nothing happening... we're going to take a very hard line on this particular issue, with this particular property."

While Anderson couldn't speak to the exact steps the City would take, his sentiments have been echoed by council before.

In September 2019, councillor Dalvir Nahal pushed for $10,000 to $15,000 fines for owners who let their properties go to "shitsville."

Nahal asked much the same question Aug. 17: "Can we create a policy where we can do hefty fining if there’s that many complaints of an owner over and over again?"

City bylaw staff said while a "repeat nuisance" ticket is possible, they couldn't "just lump every issue together.”

So while the consensus from Vernon council was that something needed to be done immediately, what that action will be isn't entirely clear.

In September 2019, former City of Vernon protective services manager, Geoff Gaucher, had said if the yards were kept clean and the house boarded, it could stay like that for years.

And it appears he was right. One year later the three dishevelled properties sit much the same as they did 12 months earlier.

The properties' owner Dave Nahal did not respond to requests for information and comment by deadline.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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