Better solutions are needed to secure or remove derelict properties
A growing community pushback against derelict properties along with increasing complaints to the City is resulting in some progress. On Oct. 3, the property at 11847 96 St was cleaned up.
Led by two municipal enforcement officers, a crew of Think Green employees cleaned the junk from the property, boarded up a broken window, and helped gain access to the derelict house and garage.
Police searched the two buildings and found a man and a woman living in the garage and escorted them off the property.
Numerous reports were made about the property over the years to the City and Edmonton Police Service.
“Complaints about this property date back to 2008 but increased in severity, type, and frequency after 2012,” says Crystal Coleman, communications advisor with the City. “We issued two Municipal Government Orders to deal with the nuisance conditions pursuant to the Community Standards Bylaw. This allowed the City to carry out the orders at the owner’s expense. When remedial action is taken, we bill the property owner. If unpaid, it is added to the tax role.”
Coleman says they have issued fines to the property owner in the past and will continue to monitor the property every three to four weeks until further notice. “They will go back periodically until they are satisfied it’s been resolved. But they are still trying to contact the owners.”
But some neighbours, like Virginia Potkins, don’t feel like the City or EPS are doing enough.
“I believe, if you dig through the archives at the Rat Creek Press actually, in 2008 they were trying to work with the landlord to clean the property up,” explains Potkins. “After 2008, maybe 2009, the house caught on fire. It has been like this for 13 years. All boarded up, no one living there.”
No one officially, anyway; there have been ongoing issues with squatters. Police confirmed that they have received calls about trespassing, disturbances, and trouble.
“Since they closed up the house last Thursday (Oct. 3), [squatters] broke into the house the very next day. The boarding up that they call ‘securing the property’ is not good enough. Putting boards on the windows is not the kind of security [needed] when they board up houses. All [people] need is a claw hammer to get in,” explains Potkins. She adds that the City needs to secure the house with bars and a fence. “If there is no fence around it, people just dump [garbage].”
Potkins says people will often go to that property to hang out, do drugs, and drink. “And they’ll break into the house. It just invites other people who want a place to go and do whatever. It also invites people to rummage through. It’s an open invitation for a lot of different things.”
Over the years, Potkins has rallied her neighbours to file complaints with 311 and the police whenever something new arises with the property with the hopes that some action will be taken.
Another neighbour, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the house attracts unpleasant elements to the neighbourhood. “Breaking in, squatting. Same thing with the garage, which is full of stuff, also being broken into.”
When asked what she hopes to happen with the property, the neighbour said, “Shut it down for real. Either demo it or rebuild something that fits the neighbourhood better.” She is pleased that the City at least showed up to clean the property.
For more information or issues with derelict properties, contact 311.
Featured Image: Neighbours say better security is needed to ensure people can’t get on the property. | Stephen Strand