North Cowichan’s council has asked staff to prepare a nuisance property bylaw that would make landlords financially responsible for excessive emergency calls to their properties.
In a report to council, Inspector Ray Carfantan from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment suggested a nuisance property bylaw should be considered in the municipality and asked that North Cowichan staff prepare a report on the issue.
But Coun. Al Siebring said at a council meeting on May 17 that North Cowichan should go a step further and prepare a draft bylaw for council to consider.
Coun. Tom Walker agreed, saying such a move would show the municipality wants to move the process forward.
“People are sick and tired of living close to these properties,” he said.
“My wife and I lived by one of these properties and it was no fun for us. This bylaw could help resolve the problems experienced by neighbours and help police use their resources better.”
In his report, Carfantan said 22 properties in North Cowichan have been singled out for having excessive calls for service, ranging from 13 to 167 calls, last year.
He said the total calls for service to these properties in 2016 was 792, with the majority concerned with mischief, disturbances, noise, family law and mental health issues.
Carfantan said, considering the excessive costs of dealing with these properties, North Cowichan should consider implementing a nuisance property bylaw.
He suggested making the property owners responsible for the costs of excessive emergency calls.
Carfantan said the new level of accountability a nuisance property bylaw would introduce in North Cowichan would translate into reduced calls for service by the police, and subsequent redistribution of the police resources that would normally be invested in these multiple calls for service.
Coun. Rob Douglas said he’s concerned that some of the calls to the properties considered a nuisance were related to mental health issues.
“I’d hate to see families punished with fines if they have a family member with mental health issues,” he said.
Carfantan responded that calls related to mental health issues are not usually the “primary calls” related to nuisance properties.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen asked that the public be involved in the drafting of the proposed new bylaw.
“Many feel uninvolved and want to be engaged in finding solutions to the issue,” she said.
Siebring asked Carfantan if a nuisance property bylaw would help reduce the problems around drug use and discarded needles in the community.
Carfantan said he can’t say if there would be a direct correlation between the bylaw and drug use in general.
“But I can say there is a direct correlation between nuisance properties and the people who are negatively impacted nearby,” he said.