With a five-two vote in favour at the regular council meeting, Penticton has now banned sitting or lying on certain downtown sidewalks during spring and summer months.
On June 4, Penticton city council voted to adopt the proposed amendments to the Good Neighbour Bylaw which prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalks of Ellis Street, Main Street and Martin Street from May to September 30. Those in violation of the amendments can face fines up to $100.
Coun. Campbell Watt and Coun. Julius Bloomfield voted against the bylaw amendments, with Bloomfield referencing that last council meeting staff talked about “balancing the hammer with the heart” and stated that he felt this bylaw was coming before proper supports are in place to help the city’s homeless population. Those opposed to the bylaw amendments said they believed it to be discriminatory against this demographic.
Coun. Jake Kimberley, Coun. Judy Sentes, Coun. Katie Robinson and Mayor John Vassilaki all sp0ke in favour of the bylaw amendments. Kimberley and Vassilaki both highlighted that this is meant to improve the safety of the downtown for all residents that use the sidewalks.
Protesters gathered outside city hall in advance of the council meeting to voice their disapproval of the amendments. Organizer Chelsea Terry said she did not believe this to be a feasible solution to the city’s problems and she hopes that more discussions will take place to get to the heart of the issue.
City staff said in a previous council meeting that bylaw officers intend to use discretion when implementing the bylaw, and that they have the power to coordinate with other social supports and partners to help those in need seek help.
Perry added that she hopes this debate will bring awareness to the community initiative Monday Night Dinners, which were recently impacted by a new lease agreement in the downtown which allowed a business to fence off a portion of the Nanaimo Square sidewalk where the dinners for those in need previously took place.
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