In April, garbage on a Parkdale lot garnered widespread media coverage before it was cleaned up. Parkdale-Cromdale isn’t the only neighbourhood with this problem. Alberta Avenue Community League volunteers reported three properties during their clean up of the 112 Avenue blocks including a pile of refuse growing on a vacant lot on 95 Street.

Vacant or abandoned lots in particular are tempting dumping grounds, said Kaila Tipton, the city’s acting coordinator of general enforcement.

According to Tipton, areas with more rental properties are also problematic. “People are moving more often and getting rid of things more often and not always disposing of things properly.”

Virginia Potkins, an Alberta Avenue resident, said five properties on 118 Avenue and 96 Street frequently have junk in alleys or behind the properties.

Garbage that accumulates in the alley on 118 Avenue and 96 Street. | Virginia Potkins

“I call 311 or use the app at least once a week,” said Potkins. “Last night we had a barbecue and we heard a truck, then saw some guy unloading an old broken lawn mower in the alley. It’s not just people who live here [that do it], it’s people from other places.”

Potkins noted how one home was undergoing renovations, but the refuse wasn’t hauled away soon enough. “Some people used the drywall material and started building shelters to camp out. It’s good that all these new builds happen, but we have to keep it clean.”

No matter who’s doing it, it’s the responsibility of property owners to clean it up. Bylaw officers work with owners to help prevent the problem from getting worse by suggesting strategies like using signage, fences, and lighting. It’s important to monitor the property to ensure people aren’t dumping on it and to remove items promptly so it doesn’t look like a dumping spot.

Report unsightly properties by dialing 311, by using the app, or by reporting it online. A bylaw officer will open a file and investigate within four business days.

The officer will determine how severe the problem is, then may give a warning (Notice to Comply) with 14 days to remedy the problem.

If the problem is not fixed, then the officer gives a Municipal Government Act (MGA) order, which “gives municipalities the ability to remedy the problem and bill property owners for clean up,” said Tipton

Tipton added, “If it’s a property where there’s ongoing complaints and there’s a significant history, they can go [straight to] to the MGA orders.” This order gives property owners 21 days to remedy concerns

If the owner doesn’t clean up the property by the due date, the bylaw officer books contractors to clean it and gives the owner seven days’ notice for contractors to set foot on the property.

“But even if we get there, a property owner can kick us off and we’d have to go through the court,” said Tipton.

Submitting multiple complaints to 311 can help officers understand the scope of the situation, but it won’t make the file more of a priority.

Potkins says people move junk from property to property using shopping carts. | Virginia Potkins

“Early reporting can be [helpful] because the process can be quite lengthy. Once the file has started the process, it’s a priority, but timelines are legislated so nothing can expedite it.”

Taking a picture of the property is useful. “It’s also a good comparison for when the officer takes the photo,” said Tipton, explaining the officer can see if the pile has grown.

If garbage is on city land, report it the same way. “As soon as the city is notified of something on city property, we deal with it as soon as we can,” said Tipton.

Each case is unique and sometimes it takes longer to get a property cleaned. Tipton said, “More and more, we’re seeing files that have complex pieces to it.”

Some owners may be unable to clean their property due to mental health issues or because they’re physically unable to do so. “We really try to work with property owners. A responsible municipality tries to work with the people. It’s the property owner’s responsibility, but we have to be aware and compassionate.”

Tipton added, “An officer can fine after the property owner has shown non-compliance.” Issuing a fine typically happens before the city hires contractors. In the case of repeat or chronic offenders, officers can issue a fine immediately.

“A ticket is issued as a tool to change behaviour,” said Tipton.

The fine for a homeowner is $250 and $1,000 for construction-specific issues, such as infill properties and development companies.

Potkins said reporting properties helps.

“I think the more I complain, the more they actually listen,” she said. “It’s such a big issue that sometimes it takes time.” She added, “It comes and goes but is a constant problem. It never fully disappears.”

UNSIGHTLY PROPERTIES, search “nuisance conditions”

Report by dialing 311, emailing 311@edmonton,ca or using the 311 app

Report online: (Bylaw Complaint Service)

Featured Image: Some of the garbage in the alley on 118 Avenue and 96 Street. | Virginia Potkin