Owners of a strip of motels and hotels in Lower Sahali designated nuisance properties earlier this fall have been working cooperatively and the area is improving, according to the city.
“I’m pleased to say that we are noticing a difference,” community services supervisor Kevin Beaton told a city committee last week.
On Oct. 22, the city declared 10 motels and hotels nuisance properties: the Star Lodge, Desert Inn, Knights Inn, Columbia Motor Lodge, Ramada Inn, Hospitality Inn, Panorama Inn, Best Western Plus, Grandview Hotel and Acadian Motor Inn (which is downtown).
Beaton said the designation was due to criminal, bylaw and fire activity.
He said the city is working with the owners to make the properties again look like hotels and motels, not apartment buildings.
A bylaws services report that went before the committee noted the property owners and managers committed to cleaning up properties and ensuring safety for residents in the area.
Kamloops Accommodation Association president Tyson Andrykew said property owners have taken a number of steps, including altering business models to no longer accept monthly rentals, painting over graffiti, cleaning up properties, hiring security and altering landscaping to increase visibility.
Beattie elementary parent Tara Bondar has noticed changes, including the boarding up of some properties, less frequent activity at the city lookout during the day and timely response to complaints by bylaws staff.
Bondar said one incident she reported to a hotel did not result in a response, but a subsequent call to bylaws resulted in immediate action. She also touted the school district’s efforts to improve safety in the area.
Asked if safety has improved since KTW last spoke to her for a previous story, Bondar said she feels safer and is walking more in the area.
However, she said kids don’t yet feel safe.
Running into Beattie and leaving her child in the vehicle, for example, Bondar returned to locked doors and a child afraid someone might enter the vehicle.
In addition, she said her son chased an inebriated individual off school property.
On another occasion, a traffic stop on the frontage road in front of the motels and hotels resulted in fear of a criminal situation unfolding.
“I don’t think the kids see. I don’t think they’re totally aware of the changes,” Bondar said.
Meanwhile, Andrykew said the association was “disappointed” by nuisance property designations he said lumped together nine hotel and motel properties, not all of which are responsible for issues in the area.
He said the designations added stress to an industry hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrykew said some properties do not deserve the nuisance property designation and the most problematic ones “know it and they’re the ones that are taking the most severe measures.”
City of Kamloops community services director Byron McCorkell said properties that have relationships with the ASK Wellness Society and BC Housing are not to blame,
“It’s the ones that aren’t participating in that program who we are seeing more repeated visits to,” he said.
Bondar specifically said transient activity continues around the Star Lodge, located at 775 West Columbia St., facing toward Beattie elementary.
Manga Basi owns the Star Lodge and Desert Inn.
He said property owners are powerless when it comes to criminal behaviour.
He said property owners can keep their properties clean. However, if staff ask too many questions of guests — such as who someone is and why they are staying — the safety of staff may be at risk. He said motel and hotel operators are trying, but noted they are “also humans.”
“Alone, nobody can do it. Nobody can do it,” Basi said, stressing need for collaboration. “It’s a scary situation. People have weapons in their hands. Right, you know? They’re druggy people, they don’t care about the jail.
“They have a better shelter in the jails, right, instead of the road. I think the city should think about it and the province should think about it.
“They should have some shelter for them and they should take them away. They should be arrested. There should be curfew after a certain time of night, you know? After 11.
“After 10. Then the people can feel safe, the property owners can feel safe. It’s a big problem. It’s not a small problem.”
Andrykew said the nuisance property designation resulted in public perception the businesses were entirely to blame, overlooking other factors, such as the nearby unsecured public lookout park that has encouraged congregation. He said some high-profile incidents involved hotel and motel guests, but the vast majority of nuisance calls are not related to guests.
“They’re [hotels/motels] kind of being scapegoated in our opinion for what is a larger society issue around homelessness, mental-health issues, addiction, that, look, we’re all kind of dealing with,” he said.
McCorkell said the situation is not black and white, but added the city is “pleased” businesses are responding.
21 nuisance properties cited
Twenty-one addresses in Kamloops have been deemed nuisance properties through the end of the third quarter in 2020, with $4,200 in fines charged as a result. In addition to the nine hotels and motels, other properties include:
• 205 Carson Cres. between McArthur Island and McDonald Park in North Kamloops was designated on Aug. 20 due to criminal activity and response by Kamloops RCMP. The city said it is getting co-operation and continues to monitor.
• 3269 Bank Rd. in Westsyde was designated on Sept. 24 due to unsightly property complaints. Kamloops RCMP and Kamloops Fire Rescue partnered, found stolen property and has embarked on a major cleanup.
“Unique one about this is the tenants living there are not co-operative and neither is the property owner, so it’s a bit of a challenge for us…,” community services supervisor Kevin Beaton said, adding the property looks better and is showing signs of compliance.
• The former Kwan’s Chinese Restaurant, at 501 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops, remains vacant and has had multiple issues related to bylaws and RCMP. It was designated on Oct. 23. Since then, the city met with the property owner and the owner hired security to deal with the issues. A permit is also in place to demolish the building in the near future.
• 309 and 311 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops were designated on Oct. 23, due to bylaws and RCMP calls for service. The city has met with the owner and steps have been taken, including fencing off the property. Beaton said boarded-up windows and graffiti are next to be addressed.
• 137-1655 Ord Rd. in a Brocklehurst mobile home park was designated on Oct. 27, due to RCMP calls related to criminal activity and the person living there.
“The amount of debris and garbage that was present at this property is the worst that our contractor who helps us clean up has ever seen, to the point that they had to wear hazmat suits and everything to effectively clean up this property,” Beaton said.
“We have cleaned it up, solved a lot of the issues — in terms of the smells and nuisance and rodents and whatnot — and the neighbours are really pleased that we intervened and assisted with this property.”