File photo

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Town council looks at developing a derelict property incentive bylaw

Mayor wants to “praise not punish” people who clean up derelict properties

Mayor Rick Bonnett turned over the running of council’s regular council meeting Sept. 10 to deputy mayor Coun. Carla Prediger so he could put forward a notice of motion for a derelict property incentive bylaw.

Bonnett asked administration to investigate and work on a new bylaw that would allow council to authorize property tax incentives on properties that have fallen into disrepair.

There are a number of neglected, abandoned and aged properties in Ponoka and Bonnett would like council to have the ability to offer a tax break as an incentive for cleaning them up.

“We know the ones that are identified,” he said, adding he’d like property owners that develop a rundown property to be “praised not penalized.”

Coun. Kevin Ferguson was in favour of the idea, but suggested putting an age restriction on eligible buildings, as well as a cap on how long the tax break would last for.

“We need to deal with those things because, as I said … there are a number of neighbours and you can just see the desperation in their eyes over the fact that they were dealing with, really, a garbage dump in their neighbourhood and that’s got to be addressed regardless if it’s positive or negative,” said Ferguson.

Prediger asked whether the bylaw would deal with commercial or residential properties and if it would supercede bylaw enforcement already in place.

Bonett says he doesn’t disagree with making it mainly for commercial properties, but in some instances residential properties may be applicable, such as when an owner cleans up an eyesore in a neighbourhood.

“I don’t disagree with you that bylaw enforcement has its place and we’ve got to have those but this is an extra over and above,” said Bonnett.

“I really appreciate the mayor’s work and his ideas in making this motion. I think it’s got significant potential,” said CAO Albert Flootman.

Flootman says the development of a program that would be clear to administer and transparent to the public would be a “stronger tool” to deal with derelict properties, adding it would take some time to accomplish because of the complexity.

“Let’s make sure that we are realistic in our expectations of what we can achieve. We also need to be realistic about timing … we will need some time to put this together,” said Flootman.

Council directed administration to work on developing a bylaw and bring it before council within a year.