Updated: City of Red Deer getting ready to deal with empty, rundown buildings

They are a hazard, as well as eyesore, says Coun. Paul Harris

A long empty commercial space on Little Gaetz. (Google Earth photo).

Owners of “vacant and derelict” buildings in Red Deer be warned: city staff will be exploring all options — including bylaw changes and expropriation — to deal with your rundown eyesores.

Coun. Paul Harris made a notice of motion Tuesday for administration to look at various ways of getting rid of neglected, empty properties that create health hazards, attract crime and trespassing and decrease neighbourhood development potential and tax revenues.

His motion received unanimous support from the rest of council. “You got me at “vacant” and “derelict.” You didn’t have to go any further, said Coun. Buck Buchanan, who drew chuckles while summarizing the sentiment of fellow councillors.

Coun. Lynn Mulder predicted there will be legal challenges on the path towards condemning, expropriating, or otherwise removing derelict properties. But she added “it’s worth looking at,” if it means forcing owners to do something with the buildings they’ve been neglecting.

Harris said he’s been frustrated by this issue since before getting on council. Some city buildings have been empty for years — even decades. He said, “Weeds are growing out of the roofs and garbage is pile up in the lots,” yet these buildings are still just sitting there, decaying.

“Not only is it an eyesore, it’s a community hazard — even a fire hazard,” added Harris, who mentioned a long empty building, near Saro’s Restaurant, and another north of Dot’s on Little Gaetz.

But he noted one doesn’t have to search far, since there are such structures throughout the city.

Mayor Tara Veer called Harris’ motion opportune, noting as some tools have recently been made available to municipalities to deal with these kinds of issues.

“The timeliness is germane.”

“It’s an opportunity for our city to be better” — in terms of stimulating development and potential new businesses, said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes.

The first step is for administration to define “vacant” and “derelict,” as the community standards bylaw doesn’t have clear definitions. Then staff will investigate what options are available for municipalities, and bring these back to council for consideration.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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