Penticton approves ban on sitting, lying, on some downtown sidewalks - InfoNews

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Penticton approves ban on sitting, lying, on some downtown sidewalks

Downtown Penticton
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
June 05, 2019 - 11:02 AM

PENTICTON, B.C. - Councillors in Penticton have ignored protests from inside and outside the British Columbia city and have passed a bylaw amendment that makes it an offence to sit or lie on some downtown sidewalks.

In a crackdown on loitering, Penticton council voted 5-2 to approve an amendment to the Good Neighbourhood Bylaw, giving police and bylaw officers the power to hand out $100 fines.

"My platform during the election, my No. 1 priority was crime and safety, and that's what this is all about: safety," said Mayor John Vassilaki.

Coun. Jake Kimberley insisted the change looks after the community at large.

"I'm sorry to say that this has to be done in order to protect those people who want to use those sidewalks: those disabled persons; those sight- or vision-impaired persons; those persons with family, with children. They don't want to walk down sidewalks and trip over people with their legs out in the middle of the sidewalk," he said.

Coun. Judy Sentes said messages she received from the public ran 10-to-one in favour of the change, while Coun. Katie Robinson and Coun. Frank Regehr argued the amendment responds to concerns of downtown business owners.

Speaking in opposition, Coun. Julius Bloomfield suggested the city is opening itself up to civil rights challenges because there is not enough help and housing available for street people who are the target of the change.

"I could be tempted to vote in favour of this bylaw in the future if the help was there … but we need to give the help a chance before we start using the hammer," said Bloomfield.

Coun. Campbell Watt was the other dissenter.

Penticton lawyer Paul Varga spoke for Penticton residents angered by council's decision.

"It's not the way we treat people," he said.

"The people who are lying on the streets that (city officials) are targeting, that they're concerned with most, they're the symptom of the problem," said Varga, who has represented a client previously accused of violating city rules against panhandling.

Chelsea Terry, who organized protests in the run up to the Tuesday vote, described council's decision as an "utter disappointment."

"It's the exact same thing over and over again and they expect different results. That's what insane people do," she said.

Anthony Haddad, the city's director of development services, in a presentation before the vote said the amendment is designed to ensure free movement on downtown sidewalks, address safety concerns and protect recent investments in the area.

He also said a $100 fine will be bylaw officers' last resort, following education, a request for compliance, a verbal warning, a demand letter and compliance agreement.

The bylaw amendment makes it an offence to sit or lie on sidewalks on the 100 through 300 blocks of Ellis Street, 200 through 400 blocks of Martin Street, and the 100 through 700 blocks of Main Street, comprising about 17 per cent of Penticton's total downtown sidewalks.

The rule will only be in effect May 1 through Sept. 30.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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