Last week during city council, Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown voiced his exasperation about vacant residential property lots in the city that are eyesores.

During a segment in which council was providing updates from external board and committee meetings, Mayor Brown directed his question to Director Stephen Utz with the City. 

"I see a lot of vacant lots in this community, they're not well kept; there's garbage everywhere, " Mayor Brown remarked. "There's debris, and I'm trying to figure out as the people in charge, can we raise their taxes? can [we] force them to clean up? I know, there is a Community Standards Bylaw, but it does not seem to be getting enforced. If there is enforcement, I would love to see how much we are enforcing?"

Mayor Brown added that he assumed that the city's bylaw enumerated that warning letters are sent to offending property owners, but eventually, The City can step in and clean an unruly property.

"... And then we will put it on your taxes, and you will pay us at the end of the calendar year to bring your property up to certain standards," he said. "Can we expedite [and] increase the taxes of these vacant properties to motivate [owners] to either do something with it or to maybe sell it?"

Director Utz said that the issues, especially those that recur in spring in development sites, whether it is construction debris, or otherwise, the Planning Department with the city does work with municipal enforcement to issue letters to those responsible for the lot parcels to clean things up. However, Mayor Brown underlined he was more interested in private lots, rather than developing sites. 

"I'm not specific on developers as landowners. That is where my issues lie; is the vacant landowners that are not prepping their land at all. The developers are a whole other game," Mayor Brown clarified.

Mayor Brown then inquired about the city-wide clean-up initiative, citing that in years past the community did come together for such an undertaking. Airdrie's Chief Administrative Officer, Horacio Galanti, said that other surrounding communities dub the day as a pitch-in day. 

"Everybody goes in different groups, picking up garbage, in a coordinated effort. [It] has been led by municipalities in other jurisdictions," Galanti added. "We certainly can look at doing something like that, if Council wishes. It will take some planning and resources, but I think, it could be a way to address what's happening every Spring."

Councillor Tina Petrow, along with Deputy Mayor Al Jones were open to the idea, as was Councillor Ron Chapman.

"I would love to see that happen. I know last time I asked about it, I was told there were some liability issues and that is why we do not do them. So, I look forward to hearing from risk management, [but] I would still totally support it," Councillor Petrow added. 

According to the City's Community Standards Bylaw, the 'Untidy and Unsightly Condition' of a property can include the following: any loose litter, feces, garbage, as well as damaged, dismantled, or derelict vehicles or motor vehicles, smelly or messy compost heaps, and unkempt grass or weeds higher than ten centimetres. Penalties range from $100 to $300 for having an unsightly property.

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