Controversial sidewalk bylaw in Penticton continues to garner attention

Click to play video: 'A controversial bylaw that would ban people from sitting on some downtown streets in Penticton has divided the community' A controversial bylaw that would ban people from sitting on some downtown streets in Penticton has divided the community
A controversial bylaw that would ban people from sitting on some downtown streets in Penticton has divided the community – May 27, 2019

It is a bylaw aimed at cleaning up Penticton’s downtown core.

“We act on pressure from the community and if we don’t listen to our community, then we are not doing our job,” Penticton mayor John Vassilaki said.

Vassilaki is referring to an amendment to the ‘Good Neighbor’ bylaw that would make it illegal to sit or lay on some city streets during the spring and summer months.

Last Tuesday, city council voted five to two to amend the bylaw.

READ MORE: Penticton endorses plan to ban sitting on downtown sidewalks during summer months

City council is faced with growing complaints about the social issues plaguing the downtown core.

“I get many, many emails, phone calls, every day concerning this matter,” Vassilaki said.

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Many business owners have long complained that panhandlers can be aggressive, and in some cases have even blocked access to their storefronts.

Adam Power works in a downtown building that overlooks Nanaimo Square, an area he says has become somewhat of a hub for criminal activity.

“Drug transactions, fights,” he told Global News. “There’s been assaults here, last week we had someone swinging a hammer at somebody else.”

Power is fed up and has started to record the activity on his phone.

He’s been posting the videos on social media to try and raise awareness about the kinds of problem facing the downtown core.

“We have a few people that work in my office that have changed their shifts because they won’t work here in the evenings,” he said.

He supports council’s latest efforts to try and deal with the problem.

“I think the intended goal is really important to understand,” Power said. “I think some people have been caught up a little bit in the details, maybe the way the bylaw has been presented, or the bylaw has been drafted but the intended goal is to improve the vibrancy downtown and allow businesses like us and the other tenants of Nanaimo Square to engage in place-making so that this is somewhere that people want to be so that our downtown can thrive.”

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Many, however, oppose the bylaw. Last Saturday, a sit-in protest was staged downtown to fight the plan.

READ MORE: Dozens protest Penticton’s plan to ban sitting on downtown sidewalks

Penticton Coun. Julius Bloomfield was one of the two elected officials who voted against the bylaw amendment. He said he doesn’t think it’ll do my good.

“If you go to a job and you got a tool belt full of tools and you only have a hammer — and in this case we are talking about the hammer — but if you only have a hammer then you can’t fix the problem,” Bloomfield said. “The other tools that you need to do the job properly are not available right now and that is the housing.”

A final reading on the bylaw is expected at the next council meeting on June 4. If approved, the bylaw would be implemented after that.

The amended bylaw currently proposes a ban on sitting or lying on a street located between the 100 to 300 blocks of Ellis Street, the 200 to 400 blocks of Martin Street and the 100 to 700 blocks of Main Street from the beginning of May to the end of September.

The fine for breaking the bylaw would be $100.


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