Continued concerns about anti-graffiti provisions in the new Property Maintenance and Nuisance Abatement bylaw have delayed final passage of the new bylaw.
Third reading and passage was slated for June 14 council meeting. Instead, council voted to table the bylaw to the June 28 meeting amid concerns the proposed bylaw was targeting those hit by graffiti vandalism and in turn, victimizing them again.
Councillor Don Buglas made the motion to table the bylaw to the next meeting. The vote to table was not unanimous, however, as both Mayor Ian Hamilton and Councillor Ron Crush voted against. Crush said during the meeting he favoured allowing the bylaw to go through and addressing any problems that might come up with it later.
The decision to table came after a vigorous discussion among councillors about the anti-graffiti provisions that no person shall cause of permit any land, building or structure to become untidy and unsightly due to graffiti, and a section that states no person shall allow graffiti to remain on any building, accessory building, fence or any other structure.
Councillor Trent Houk led the charge against the anti-graffiti provisions. While he liked the rest of the bylaw, Houk nevertheless said he couldn't support it as it stood.
"I don't like the fact that we're going to punish victims of vandalism," said Houk. "I cannot support this bylaw if we are going to do that."
Houk urged another solution be found and suggested separate provisions so those who were victims of vandalism would not be punished or targeted by the bylaw.
The topic of vandalism was particularly sensitive for council on Monday in the wake of a wave of weekend incidents throughout the city, which saw slashed tires and broken windows at various locations.
During the discussion at council, Buglas talked about the enforcement of the graffiti provisions and said he was under the impression that it was the policy of administration to not actually impose a fine for acts of vandalism.
Fire Chief Pat MacIsaac confirmed the policy has been for the City to go in and clean up, and not impose an actual fine. As well, he said it was not the intent of administration to increase the burden on those victims of vandalism, saying the city was willing to work with citizens of the community to come up with solutions.
However, City Manager Jim Toye did point out later in the discussion that, indeed, the new bylaw did include provisions for fines. Section 65.4 of the new bylaw stated those contravening the graffiti provisions are liable to fines of $100 for a first offence, $200 for a second offence and $300 for third and subsequent offences.
On hearing that, Buglas made the motion to table third reading to the next meeting. That tabling was greeted with enthusiasm by Houk, who wanted to see further revisions to the bylaw before it passed.
Houk proposed that fines not be imposed in the case of vandalism. Instead, saying that property owners could continue to be fined in other situations, such as letting housing shingles decay.
The bylaw will be back at council June 28, at which point further changes may be incorporated with respect to the graffiti provisions.