Quesnel City Council will meet this week over what to do about what is being called a tarp city that has sprung up.
It’s located on Warden Street in West Quesnel.
Mayor Bob Simpson says it’s been there for a few weeks or more now…
“We don’t know how many people are residing there. It’s some pretty large tarps put up around some trees that block any view of the activity that’s going inside. The RCMP are monitoring it, but because it’s on private property, it’s really the private property owner’s responsibility to deal with the issue or to declare a trespass in order for the RCMP to be able to deal with the issue.
Simpson says they are getting complaints…
“There are safety concerns in the area, there have been complaints of fights and late night activity, and now there are complaints about hygiene and health-related issues as well as potential fire-related issues in the area, so we’ve definitely got the complaints. Again, the city of Quesnel is limited in it’s options of addressing these kinds of things when they occur on private land.”
Simpson says what they need is the direct assistance of the private property owner, but he says they don’t have a lot of tools to compel the landowner to deal with it…
“Part of the problem is you have to make a case and these take a long time, just like the RCMP in making a case against a known drug house. You have to have a case if you’re going to take any kind of remedial action, so you have to all your due diligence with the landowner, you have to give due notice, you have to actually make the case that it’s unsightly and some people would argue that the way that they put the tarps up, that it is not unsightly. I’ve asked questions about a building that has not gone through a development permit process, gotten a building permit, meets building code and apparently because this is a temporary structure, not a building, then none of that applies.”
Simpson says the city will explore the possibility of taking a legal step requiring it to be dealt with within 30 days.
‘There are some pretty stringent restrictions on how you use that and I’ve said to people many times, you really do want any level of government to have to go through steps in order to take any action on private land. It’s a protection of private land rights but there are circumstances like this, and like we had with the brown cabins, where you need to be able to move a lot faster.
Simpson says ultimately the public deserves to be able to live in a safe neighbourhood, they deserve to be able to live without fear of people simply just moving in and doing whatever they want.
He feels the balance between private land rights and public safety is skewed towards the private land rights when it comes to situations like this.