Parksville city council has moved through three readings of an amendment to its panhandling bylaw.
During Monday’s Parksville city council meeting, councillors moved unanimously on an amendment that would add $50 fines for solicitation in certain areas. This includes panhandling that causes obstruction on city streets, within 10 metres of a bank, ATM, liquor store, cannabis retail store, grocery stores and bus stops or shelters. The fine would be reduced to $37.50 for an early payment, but increased to $62.50 for a late payment penalty.
“It was a recommendation from staff, and basically would put some teeth in the bylaw, and was done in consulation with the RCMP,” said Deb Tardiff, communications manager with the city.
“It’s not a lot, but enough to be a deterrent we hope.”
In December 2018, council directed staff to prepare a bylaw to address regulations to reduce obstruction ‘to the safe and efficient movement of people on sidewalks’.
The existing bylaw had been presented to council for consideration and was approved on April 15, 2019. Since then, staff have monitored its effectiveness, and while it has helped, bylaw finds it difficult to effectively enforce without penalties.
In 2019, there were 69 files created on solicitation. As of July this year, 85 files had already been created, with anticipation it will increase.
The amendment brought to council on Monday states that having a penalty attached to the bylaw would assist officers in promoting safe and efficient flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the downtown core. The analysis of the amendment states that a fine would also make it easier to enforce if the offender is persistent.
The amendment will return to council for final reading and adoption in the future.
Tardiff said there’s nothing yet planned if solicitations persist beyond the introduction of a penalty.