A half-dozen Campbell River businesses on Shoppers Row believe bylaw isn’t enforcing laws equally when it comes to the homeless.
The group spoke today to a committee of council. The owners from the 1300 block include the Comfort Inn and Suites, Berwick Senior Living, Tyee Apartments, Jim Costain (former Dairy Queen owner), Adams Tarp and Tools and True Blue Aquatics.
Group spokesman Jonathan Shead says the 1300 block of Shoppers Row is being affected by the nearby Harbourside Inn shelter.
“There is nowhere else in the whole of Campbell River where people congregate with their shopping carts and (are) participating in drug use on a sidewalk,” Shead said.
“We are not being properly treated in connection with our ability to do business in a normal way,” he said.
He says the businesses are being hurt either through negative reviews and ratings or lower property values, rents and occupancy rates due to the safety concerns.
Coun. Ben Lanyon says action is needed that doesn’t infringe on Charter rights.
“Harbourside, just like any business that has customers, provides adequate provision for parking for those customers. Carts are their mode of transporting their stuff and storing it and it’s up to the Harbourside who rents space for a profit to the warming center to provide that parking,” Lanyon said.
Mayor Kermit Dahl pointed to the situation in Nanaimo where a drug consumption site was deemed a public nuisance and is charged every time emergency services have to respond. He says the Harbourside is “really getting close to that.”
Dahl challenged the business group’s comparison of the state of the shelter to others in the city. He says the difference is “vetting” and the “choice of the operator.”
He also refuted claims from the business group that the city was detrimentally affecting their business.
“I don’t think that that’s quite fair. Because there isn’t anyone sitting here on this side that ran for council so we could screw up your business. I think that almost all of you know me well enough to know that wasn’t my intention when I decided to do this because I didn’t need this job. And I sure didn’t need the emails that I get to read because I was willing and sometimes dumb enough to take this job,” Dahl said.
As a commercial property owner, Dahl says he appreciates the situation the business owners are going through.
The committee of council agreed today to bring back a strategy to address the safety concerns and also look at adding a so-called “good neighbour” bylaw provision into the business bylaw.