New Team to Focus on Troublesome Properties

New team focuses on troublesome properties

A new collaboration between police and government agencies is cracking down on properties where unsafe living conditions or suspected criminal activity have attracted neighbours’ attention.

The Property Standards Compliance Team (PSCT) is a new initiative started in June that brings together RCMP, City of Kelowna staff, Kelowna Fire Department and other agencies as needed to attend potentially unsafe or illegal properties.

The goal of the team is to act on repeated complaints from neighbours about properties. It combines enforcement of criminal activities with RCMP when necessary, in partnership with City Bylaw and building inspection staff.

“We receive calls from concerned neighbours throughout the year, as do the RCMP, about properties that are causing repeated disturbances to the neighbourhood,” said David Gazley, Bylaw Services Manager. ”This approach puts the onus on the property owner to address the concerns, rather than focusing on the tenants who might be the source of complaints. The fines and orders from the team motivate the property owner to take action.”

In a recent case, Bylaw Services issued tickets totaling more than $2,500 to a property owner. More specifically, the Bylaw officer attended with the RCMP and City Building Inspectors and issued the following six tickets to the property owner:

  • more than five occupants not related
  • illegally occupied bedroom in the furnace room
  • illegal occupied utility trailer
  • illegally occupied shed
  • illegal room in the carriage home attic
  • Building without a permit in the attic

RCMP attend to investigate possible criminal activity, while other government agencies might also attend to assess public health and safety issues.

“We have always collaborated with RCMP and others on property complaints, but this team takes a more coordinated and proactive approach to establish priorities and to bring the right people into the residence to assess illegal and unsafe conditions,” said Gazley.

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City Hall's An open book

2020 0718 Open Book

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Money Destined for Housing Retained

Money destined for housing will not be shared with Tourism Kelowna

Housing wins over tourism

Kelowna city council voted down a recommendation to have online portal accommodation revenue split between affordable housing and tourism marketing next year.

The recommendation was made as Tourism Kelowna struggles with funding to market the city to tourists from across the province.

Since allowing OAP's such as AirBNB in late 2018, the city has collected a three per cent fee from each short-term rental similar to the hotel tax collected on each room rental.

While the hotel tax revenue goes directly to Tourism Kelowna for marketing, the province has given municipalities the ability to use OAP monies for either tourism marketing or affordable housing.

City council has chosen to use that money for affordable housing.

Because room tax revenue has fallen off sharply due to COVID-19, with no guarantee of the full return in 2021, it was suggested the OAP be shared 50-50 between affordable housing and tourist marketing.

Council voted it down 5-3 with only Mayor Colin Basran and councillors Brad Sieben and Gail Given supporting it.

Basran said the main crux of the matter in allowing short-term rentals nearly two years ago was to regulate an industry that was causing havoc in the city.

He said getting OAP revenue on top of that was a bonus.

"But, I'm comfortable in the fact we have many ways of funding property acquisition if we need to, particularly in the short term," he said.

"If BC Housing comes knocking tomorrow, and says we have an opportunity, I have every confidence we would be able to find a way to purchase that property to move a project forward. This is not going to inhibit, for one year, our ability to move forward with affordable housing projects."

Basran says it comes down to the health aspect by opening the city up to tourists from around the province.

He added the city continues to follow the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry who says people should feel free to move about around the province, and Basran says Tourism Kelowna should continue to market the city that way.

Coun. Luke Stack agreed comments about following the lead of the provincial health officer, but couldn't support the motion on principle.

"I actually believe once we give up this fund going into the affordable housing pool, year-after-year there will be an excellent year why not to put it in the pool because there will be other needs," said Stack.

"Using tourism advertising, I think changes the direction. In my opinion, once the direction is changed, we will never get it back. That's why I think we should stay the course as long as we can, because I think this will help build a foundation we need for the longer term."

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Drive Through Approved

From Castanet.net

Coun. Ryan Donn was on an island all by himself as council Tuesday approved a gas bar and restaurant drive-thru at Sexsmith and Highway 97 Tuesday night.

The property, on lands zoned for industrial use, required a council-approved rezoning because drive-thrus are not a permitted use in those zones.

Donn was the lone councillor to vote against the rezoning, siding with a recommendation put forward by planning staff, who cited council's goal of reducing vehicle emissions as a basis for that recommendation.

"I think based on our said goal of trying to reduce car usage...is to actually make using the car not the number one easiest choice possible. And that is what a drive-thru is," said Donn.

"I know there's a business case to be made that there are already two drive-thrus on different corners, and it's a major intersection. But, at some point we are going to have to say no if we genuinely want to move the dial lower to reduce people using cars.

"What is that point?"

The rest of council was not at that point with this particular application.

"Drive-thrus have their place, and this is a good place for it," cited Coun. Charlie Hodge.

Coun. Luke Stack pointed to the location as one of the gateways to the city, saying the companies overall landscape plan would actually enhance the area.

But, on emissions, he says the focus shouldn't be on banning or reducing drive-thrus.

"I do believe in greenhouse gas emission reduction, and on a personal level and a civic level working toward that goal," he said.

"But, I do believe the real solution is to have people change their automobiles to less emissions, and not to outlaw drive-thrus in my opinion. I go through one every day literally, but I drive an electric vehicle, so I don't have any emissions."

Mayor Colin Basran, an outspoken proponent of emission reduction, reluctantly endorsed the application.

"Do I think we are going to save the planet with this particular application? No. Is is another cut? potentially," said Basran.

"But, I think where we in Kelowna have the greatest opportunity to change behaviour is in our town centres, where people can live and work and shop and recreate in a way that's feasible for them to get around by alternate means.

"Unfortunately, because of this location, it's in an area that's outside those town centres where people are already in their vehicle."

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Social Distancing - A Guide

This is a good guide to follow in these unusual times. 

Social Distancing

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City needs to be "creative" to establish new city center parks

No new taxes for parks

If Kelowna is to adhere to the principles of the Imagine Kelowna vision when it comes to parkland, it will have to get creative.

That was the general consensus around the city council table Monday afternoon.

A hectare of land in the city's downtown core is nine times the cost of the same suburban land according to parks and building planning manager Robert Parlane.

It was a number most were unwilling to entertain.

After hitting the development community with a controversial parks acquisition development cost charge and taxpayers with an additional infrastructure tax levy, Coun. Luke Stack said residents and developers would not have stomach to cough up any more.

"I was a little bit disheartened I must admit when I read this saying, now that you've made these big, bold moves, by the way, it's nowhere near what you need if you want to build the vision," said Stack.

"I think the idea of saying we need to buy another acre of downtown to turn it into a park, for me, that boat has kind of sailed. 

"Truthfully I want to have an Imagine Kelowna Impact and vision, but I know we can't do it with dollars alone. We have to do it with creativity, looking at things in fresh ways. making the most out of each new development."

Coun. Brad Sieben suggested the city may want to look at a model similar to one in suburban areas like Kettle Valley where parks are built out as part of the development plan.

Coun. Gail Given says the current downtown parks will become overused as the city continues to densify the downtown core.

She believes the city needs to continue to look at opportunities to acquire land, but more for linear parks that connect the big citywide parks.

"At .27 per cent of what we had hoped for kind of hurts, but doing it wisely will be important," she said.

Given suggested the city get creative in how it programs parkland.

"I can look downtown and see parks that are a hunk of grass. It's a lot we bought that right now has grass and a rose garden. It has an opportunity to become more programmed, more activated, greater use on it."

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Additional Foot Patrol for Downtown Kelowna

20191108 RCMP

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Rick Webber Retires

20190726 20353120190726 182558Happy retirement to my good neighbor Rick. News won't be the same without you. 

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Kelowna Fire Department - New Recruits

I was honoured to attend the induction of 8 new recruits to the Kelowna Fire Department on June 21, 2019. These fine young men and women trained very hard for this day and we welcome them to one of the finest Fire Departments in the Country. Congratulations!

2019 Fire Dept

 

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Council's Short Term Housing Divide.

 

Modern townhome 1From: Castanet.net

Kelowna will maintain the status quo, at least for the time being, when it comes to who can, and can't use their home for Airbnb-type short-term rentals.

Following a lengthy public hearing Tuesday night, council narrowly defeated a motion that would have opened up short-term rentals in secondary suites, basement suites and carriage houses.

Council voted 4-3 to defeat the motion, with Mayor Basran and councillors Stack, Singh and Given voting against. Coun. Maxine Dehart, who works in the hotel industry recused herself from the debate, while Coun. Ryan Donn was absent.

The decision, for those who voted against opening up to carriage homes and secondary suites, came down to protecting the city's long-term rental stock, and trying to keep skyrocketing rental and home purchase prices in check.

Basran, in voting against the motion, cited two studies that he says shows short-term rentals increases rent, and increases the cost of buying a home.

"Tonight, I believe I have a decision to either perpetuate the status quo, which is to allow it to happen and allow rents to keep going up, to allow house prices to continue to rise, and for us to find other ways to help try and curb that," he said.

"Or we can continue to implement the strategies in our healthy housing strategy which is a combination of many different bylaws and ideas in order to help with affordability."

Basran said he believes the current bylaw which allows for short-term rentals in many principle residences around the city strikes a good balance.

Stack, who also voted no, says he believes opening up short-term rentals doesn't align with council's Health Housing Strategy.

"This is where the real trouble hits me, because we've been working hard to establish this long-term plan and working diligently to bring on more rental housing, and really struggling with this issue...then we are going to make a change that is going to completely go against the direction we've set," he said.

Several dozen people addressed council, speaking to both sides of the issue.

Many students at both UBCO and Okanagan College, student union reps and other renters spoke against the changes, citing the current difficulty in finding affordable accommodations.

Many homeowners, some of whom spoke at a previous public hearing two months ago, argued bad prior experiences with renters and the updated Residential Tenancy Act has put them off ever renting to long-term tenants again.

Others said they entered the short-term market as a way get extra revenue between students in the summer months.

While the issue of short-term rentals in secondary suites and carriage houses is a non-starter now, council did say it will be looked at again when the entire bylaw comes up for review in the fall of 2020.

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