Salmon Arm has joined other municipalities in the North Okanagan-Shuswap with panhandling bylaws, only Salmon Arm’s goes farther – literally.
Officially called the Street Solicitation Prevention Bylaw, and modeled after those in Kelowna and Kamloops, Salmon Arm’s increases the distance people soliciting must be away from specific sites such as banks and ATMs.
In the other community bylaws, it’s 10 metres. In Salmon Arm’s bylaw it is 15 metres. The provincial Safe Streets Act, already in effect, has a five-metre buffer.
With a full gallery in council chambers Monday night, and after much discussion, mayor and council, except for Coun. Sylvia Lindgren who was opposed, voted in favour.
It is the same bylaw, with a few amendments, as the one that was the subject of a public hearing Aug. 13, 2018. That hearing was adjourned so council could gather more input.
Lindgren stated her concern was if the bylaw was passed, people would think the problem has been solved.
This time the downtown business community, which was absent from the last hearing, turned out in force, generally expressing support as well as concerns about panhandling, including public intoxication, urinating in public areas, and customers or staff feeling fearful.
Jennifer Broadwell, membership coordinator with Downtown Salmon Arm, said DSA’s support of the bylaw should not be interpreted as being against helping neighbours in need.
She said DSA is in a potential collaboration with Second Harvest food bank and the Canadian Mental Health Association to establish “giving centres” in downtown businesses that would provide a way for citizens to help support people in need.
The bylaw states no person shall solicit on a street within 15 metres of an entrance to a bank, credit union or trust company, an automated teller machine, a bus stop or bus shelter, a restaurant with outdoor seating or the entrance to a theatre or art gallery.
At the urging of Coun. Tim Lavery, liquor and cannabis outlets were added to the list, while Coun. Kevin Flynn suggested adding money service businesses such as Money Mart.
The bylaw also states no person shall:
• Solicit from an occupant of a motor vehicle that is parked, stopped at a traffic control signal or stopped to load or unload
• Solicit at any time between sunset to sunrise
• Sit or lie on a street for the purpose of solicitation
• Solicit from a public bench, seating or within a public plaza
• Continue to solicit on a street from a person who has said no.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond provided two amendments which were approved.
The first was that the City of Salmon Arm commit to working with social agencies to develop a compassionate and collaborative framework in working with vulnerable populations.
The second was the city recognize the main intention of the bylaw is to not issue fines.
Mayor Alan Harrison made a commitment in response to a request from Flynn that the bylaw would be revisited before Dec. 31 of this year.
Also discussed was the bylaw’s definition of solicitation, which includes playing musical instruments or equipment that cause a nuisance to the public and businesses.
“Probably the number one complaint I get personally is they want buskers, who are causing nuisances, away from their business,” said Kevin Pearson, director of development services.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott West attended the meeting.
Coun. Kevin Flynn asked West if the RCMP would help the city’s lone bylaw officer with enforcement, and West answered yes.
Among the few who spoke against the bylaw were Dawn Dunlop, executive director of the CMHA Shuswap/Revelstoke region.
Dunlop suggested the bylaw be put on hold, because a systems issue requires a systems response.
Like Lindgren, she said her worry was if the bylaw was passed, the impression will be the work is done.
Council gave third reading to the bylaw, with final reading expected on May 27.