May 17th, 2024

SPC hears report about unsightly premises

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on April 19, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Graffitti is seen outside a northside commercial building. The City's Regulatory Services department is proactively taking measures to address properties of concern, says a report presented to the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee.


The City of Lethbridge’s Regulatory Services department is proactively taking measures to address properties of concern.

That was one message from a report presented Thursday to the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council by Regulatory Services manager Duane Ens.

The committee consists of councillors Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, John Middleton-Hope and Ryan Parker and acting mayor Mark Campbell.

“For over a decade, the Regulatory Services department has been addressing unsecured vacant and derelict properties through a combination of complaint driven measures and proactive enforcement. The Minimum Property Standards Bylaw 5747 passed in 2011 has been instrumental in providing us with the regulatory framework to address problem structures, including unsecured buildings accessible to the public,” says Ens’ report.

“We also rely on Unsightly Property Bylaw 5630 as valuable tool in our daily operations to address the condition of a premise, exclusive of any structures (e.g., accumulation of garbage in the yard). Compliance is often achieved through notices, orders, tickets and remedial actions under Section 545 and 546 of the Municipal

Government Act. These remedial actions involve undertaking clean up efforts, securing properties by boarding them up, or in extreme cases demolition.”

The report notes that last year two significant fires downtown, deemed to be arson, destroyed unoccupied commercial buildings which had historical significance.

“Despite enforcement efforts by multiple agencies and contacting the property owners on several occasions to ensure the property was re-boarded when necessary or security fencing repaired, trespassing incidents persisted. In one scenario, our department proactively investigated the removal of a fire escape and dusk to dawn alley lighting as an added measure to deter trespass. Unfortunately, trespassing issues may occur even with proactive enforcement and additional measures,” says Ens’ report.

Regulatory Services, in response to a directive from council on Oct. 31, prepared an updated status report for “Properties of Concern, Subject to the Minimum Property Standards Bylaw 5747.”

The report says that with ongoing efforts many properties on the report are currently in compliance with bylaws 5747 and 5630.

“Bylaw officers are consistently conducting inspections to ensure properties remain in compliance and are actively searching for any signs of trespass. It’s crucial to emphasize that unoccupied structures are considered secure if their windows and doors are intact and/or properly boarded up. When a vacant property is deemed unsecured and accessible to the public, the Regulatory Services department will promptly contact the owner and may engage LPS, AHS or other partners for assistance. Further enforcement measures will be taken if the property owner fails to comply or respond to bylaw officer direction,” notes the report.

Bylaw officers have also started conducting regular patrols of the downtown core and other areas where there is high transient activity to address complaints related to private property to ensure that vacant properties remain secure, says the report.

“As part of this effort, we are collaborating with the Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge Fire Department, Encampment Team and other agencies to strengthen these coordination efforts. Furthermore, we have implemented a new prioritization system in responding to the challenges faced by each group more effectively.”

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