The City of Duncan is looking to crack down on properties connected to the illegal drug trade.
Council gave the first three reading to the new controlled substances property bylaw at its meeting on June 17 that is intended to regulate and impose stringent requirements in regards to the remediation of properties that have been damaged through the production, trade or storage of controlled substances.
In a staff report, Paige MacWilliam, Duncan’s director of corporate services, said that the city has had to deal with several properties in recent years that have been used for the manufacture, storage or trade of controlled substances.
“In particular, the increased prevalence of fentanyl and other illicit drugs has become an issue,” MacWilliam said.
“Bringing in (the bylaw) as an additional tool for addressing these problem properties is supported by the Duncan/North Cowichan RCMP.”
Staff Sergeant Kurtis Bosnell, the plain clothes commander at the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment who attended the meeting, said he has seen various drafts of the bylaw and, if implemented, it would be one of the most up-to-date bylaws dealing with the issue in the region.
He said local police have struggled with issues around houses that were used for illegal drug purposes for years.
“One of our concerns is that, under current bylaws, once we leave a house in the city that has been used for drugs, a lot of the original people who were there tend to come back and the problem starts again,” he said.
“We’re also finding that the properties are often cleaned and swept for new occupants after we bust a house for drugs, but a lot of time nothing is being done to deal with the history of the drugs in the house. Children crawl around and put stuff in their mouths all the time and that can include needles and other drug items that may have been left. This bylaw gives bylaw officers a lot more tools in their toolboxes to deal with these types of issues.”
Mayor Michelle Staples said the city has been working on the bylaw for about a year.
“It will give us the ability to deal with situations that we would not have been able to before,” she said.
According to the draft bylaw, the city may deem a residence used for drugs unsuitable for habitation and issue the registered owner a notice advising that the residence shall not be occupied again until authorized by the city.
The city may place a note on the title of the property which would immediately alert anyone who may be considering purchasing the property to the presence of a previous illegal drug operation, and the associated fire, safety and health hazards posed.
The city may also require the owners of these properties to return the home to a condition suitable for habitation.
As well, property owners will be required to have certified companies conduct a safety inspection of the residence to ensure the home is clear of any toxic dangers associated with controlled substances and mould.
The city may also require the owners to arrange for an independent inspection with a report submitted to the city to ensure that the structural integrity of the residence is safe for habitation.
“If the owner fails to comply with an order under this bylaw, the city may hire a professional contractor to undertake the required remediation at the owner’s expense,” MacWilliam said.
“All costs associated with the investigation, dismantling and subsequent inspections will be recovered by the city through the proposed bylaw.”