City crews worked in downtown Cloverdale last week to close down and clear out seven properties, in what local RCMP are calling a “huge success story” for the town centre.
“We had seven distressed properties at the corner of 177B and 57A,” said Bylaw Enforcement Officer Harry Kooner.
“Yesterday we bordered up four properties, and evicted seven squatters,” he said on Wednesday (Aug. 10).
The Reporter caught up with Kooner as the crews tackled two properties in the 5900-block of 177B Street.
Four crew members, two dump trucks and a haz-mat team (called in to handle drywall that was dumped on one of the properties) spent the majority of the day cleaning up the two properties.
“The average today that the owner is going to be billed is $15,000, approximately,” said Kooner. “It will send a message to other people to smarten up.”
“We’ve been enforcing it,” he said, “but the problem is – with so much development, it’s not easy.”
The properties in question have been purchased by developers, he said, and they are left abandoned or unmonitored as the developers wait for permits or concentrate on other developments.
“The owners are responsible for their own properties [and] making sure there’s no dumping and that people are not squatting on their properties,” he said.
“A lot of crime happens around these properties,” said Kooner. “People will break into your house and bring your stuff to these kinds of properties, where nobody has the responsibility to check on them.”
Kooner said that when the bylaws department receives a complaint, the property owner is given 7 to 10 days to respond. “Then we get an estimate [on clean up cost] and inform the owner,” said Kooner. “If they still ignore us, we get the crew ready, pick it up and whatever the cost is, it goes on their taxes.”
Five of the houses belong to a single developer who recently purchased the properties, and they are “on board with us” said Kooner.
Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association, said that the BIA has been working with bylaws and the RCMP on this project for more than a year and is “very happy” with the results.
As for the effect that closing the distressed properties may have on the downtown Cloverdale businesses and homes, Orazietti said that, “based on past history, this will have a [positive] impact.”
Surrey RCMP Sgt. Winston Shorey said that the properties have been a long-standing issue in downtown Cloverdale.
“[We’ve] been on this for as long as I’ve been here,” said Shorey.
“This is a huge success story,” he said. “The number of complaints that have been generated by these properties here, for both bylaws and us, has been such a drain on our resources.”
“It’s mostly just nuisance based stuff,” he explained. “General behaviour, garbage.”
“A lot of issues, B & Es, theft from auto, all those things should be pretty positively impacted by this,” he said.
“These houses … end up being transit points. You end up with 6, 10, 15 people sometimes living on these properties,” he said.
One of the properties on 177B Street has been a particular concern, as “there have been a number of criminal all-stars running through [it] in the last 18 months.”
“This is huge for the downtown,” said Shorey.
“A lot of the time, people think we’re not doing anything,” said Kooner. “But the City, the RCMP, we’re battling this on a daily basis.”