Bylaw promises increased clarity — and possibly costs

Justin Crann
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City clerk/solicitor to present draft document

The city's endeavour to improve the safety and tidiness of Moose Jaw properties could become an expensive proposition for landlords.

Coun. Brian Swanson addresses issues with the city's proposed property maintenance and nuisance bylaw in Monday's regular executive committee meeting.

At their regular meeting on Monday night, the Friendly City's executive committee passed a motion to allow the city clerk and solicitor to present the draft property maintenance and nuisance bylaw to city council.

The bylaw was designed, according to a report prepared for the committee, "to encourage an attractive, tidy and safe community."

"The bylaw is giving (inspectors) the authority to go in and inspect dwellings that aren't structurally sound," explained Katelyn Soltys, Moose Jaw's assistant city solicitor.

However, Coun. Brian Swanson took issue with one of the bylaw's sections, which would result in what he suggested would be an expensive bill for landlords who rent older properties — such as Moose Jaw's many century homes.

The section dealt with fire code requirements in buildings and would be enforced on an on-complaint basis. 

Essentially, it requires properties to have modern fire prevention measures in place — including fire separation between suites — that may not have been present in a lot of older properties because it wasn't required at the time they were built.

"What this will actually do is make a lot of suites in Moose Jaw non-compliant," said Swanson. "The actual implementation of this is not realistic."

Soltys said what's at issue isn't the added cost, since many old properties would be grandfathered and tenants would have to complain or the situation would have to become unliveable before work would be required and costs incurred.

She said the policy was designed to improve public safety and fire protection.

Matt Noble reiterated that, in most cases, the bylaw won't be an issue. He cited recent precedent.

"Just recently, the City of Kelowna undertook a similar process," he told the committee. "If there are specific issues and real problem buildings, you need to have a way to deal with it.

"This is, at least, a start," added Noble.

Coun. Don Mitchell supported Noble's sentiment about getting the ball rolling.

"I don't think the status quo has been satisfactory," he said.

But Swanson cited precedent of his own: similar discussions of council from August 2006.

At that time, administration was directed to reconsider a proposed property standards bylaw because of the requirements that would have been placed on owners of multiple-dwelling properties.

"There is a reason this stalled previously," he told the committee.

But executive committee sided with Noble's precedent and passed the motion to have the city clerk/solicitor present the draft bylaw by a vote of five to two.

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Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Friendly, Kelowna

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