Penticton's actions at Nanaimo Square, sidewalk sitting bylaw well received, mayor says - InfoNews

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Penticton's actions at Nanaimo Square, sidewalk sitting bylaw well received, mayor says

Penticton's Nanaimo Square has been the focus of the city's homeless issues over the past couple of weeks following council's passing of a controversial bylaw amendment and recent chaining off of a portion of the square.
May 27, 2019 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - The City of Penticton is merely acting on the demands of its citizens with its efforts to disrupt its homeless and open drug users, Mayor John Vassilaki said today, and it does nothing to tarnish the city's reputation.

While many Southern Interior towns and cities have contended with these issues, few have been so aggressive. The city has gone to great lengths to define public spaces, who can use them and when. It's already staged a lengthy public legal battle with one of its panhandling citizens and upped the ante last week by banning people from laying or sitting on sidewalks.

The City’s zeal was even more evident over the weekend in how it handled the closure of Nanaimo Square. The public spot was used for years by a charitable organization that gave out meals to hungry residents on Mondays. Long on the radar of public officials, the group was essentially evicted from the public space after tonight, May 27. The area was closed, ostensibly for a neighbouring business’s sidewalk seating. The problem is, the business hadn’t officially applied for the seating, and the downtown square happens to be a favourite hangout spot for the city's downtown population of homeless. 

Vassilaki said today, May 27, the city had to act “on behalf of the residents and the pressure we get from citizens, especially in the downtown core.”

The mayor said the city did speak to the business owner, Jan Petrasek of Petrasek’s Bakery prior to chaining off the area, and he had no objections.

“I don’t think they really jumped the gun, because they had already spoken to the bakery owner, and they just did what they usually do on every occasion when it comes to leasing out property the city owns,” the mayor said.

Vassilaki said as far as he knew, Petrasek intended to file the paperwork to lease the space.

Petrasek's Bakery was closed today and Jan could not be reached for comment.

News of Penticton's latest efforts has spanned the province. 

The mayor said he has received “several dozens of emails” over recent provincial attention, garnered after council’s approval of an amendment to the city’s good neighbour bylaw at last week’s council meeting.

“I received emails, both locally and externally, from outside the city, and you know, from outside the city I haven’t received an email that has given us a hard time concerning the change in the good neighbour bylaw,” Vassilaki said.

“People are agreeing with it and not understanding why their city councils weren’t taking any actions as it continues to get worse all the time,” he said.

He said he "received emails from both sides, from those who were concerned about what we did, and those who are very happy about what we did, and they  wish their city councils would do something similar, if not the same as we did.”

Travel Penticton Executive Director Thom Tischik says it is his organization’s job to market Penticton externally.

“We work very hard to develop a positive image to attract people to the city, and advocate what a fun, great place it is to come to,” he said.

He called the situation in the city’s downtown core “a difficult one, because there are two sides to every story.”

“We want our visitors to feel they are welcome and safe, and they are going to come to an attractive community. That’s our job,” he said.

Tischuk said he couldn’t comment on how the city was handling the issues in the downtown core.

“We rely on tourism and spinoff business. Customer perception is always important as to how it could translate into visitor dollars into your business,” he said.

A controversial move by the City of Penticton had staff chain off a portion of Nanaimo Square for a business prior to the business officially applying for the space.
A controversial move by the City of Penticton had staff chain off a portion of Nanaimo Square for a business prior to the business officially applying for the space.

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News from © Infotel News Ltd, 2019
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