Open drug use and vagrancy at the former Legion building in downtown Vernon continues to be an issue. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Fines urged for owners who let their property go to “Sh**sville” in Okanagan community

In dealing with former Legion building, city looking at options

From prostitutes circling at dusk to homeless people seeking shelter or addicts using drugs, Vernon’s former Legion building may be empty but it sees a lot of activity.

The building, on the corner of 33rd Street and 31st Avenue, has become a hub for some of the city’s most vulnerable, both day and night.

Records indicate there were 30 complaints in 2019 (to Aug. 18) documented by bylaw at the site. Although that is significantly lower than 141 in 2018, the city suspects that is due to the fact that the Bylaw Compliance Department is now located directly across the street.

READ MORE: Homelessness, open drug use continue to plague Vernon

“The nature of the complaints is primarily for people sleeping in-and around the building, drug use, sharps, unsightliness, stolen goods, etc.,” according to a City of Vernon report.

A retail cannabis store is slated for the site, but it is subject to demolition of the building.

Now city politicians are getting impatient to see the relic torn down.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal would like to see fines imposed on owners that, “let their houses go to S**tsville.” Nahal referred to this building along with drug houses in the city.

“I think that’s something that we need to get more aggressive on,” said Nahal.

Municipalities do have the authority to take remedial action.

Graffiti is another problem the city is cracking down on.

The Anti-Tag Team was brought back this summer (following a 10-year hiatus) and is slated for 2020. The team identified 2,063 tags around town so far this year (1,271 of which have since been removed).

“The Anti-Tag Team makes note to businesses that they are being vandalized and would make steps to remove it for them if they participate,” said Rachael Zubick, Community Safety Office co-ordinator.

Morning cleanups have also been looked into but staff report it would be a significant cost — an estimated $146,175 annually if provided by city employees.

Several groups already provide cleanup downtown and the city continues to provide pick-up of large items illegally dumped on roads, alleys and public property.

One proactive way the city is cleaning up is by adjusting trash pickup times downtown to 10 a.m. or later.

“At present, our current contract requires the downtown businesses to put their garbage and blue, bag recycling out prior to 7 a.m., which is difficult for businesses as most do not open until after 9 a.m.,” said Chris Ovens, manager of roads, drainage and airport, in a report.

READ MORE: Mobile needle exchange considered in Vernon

READ MORE: Vernon councillor seeks cost info for hiring private security firm to help combat petty crime


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