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Safety concerns at Lac La Biche apartment complex forces enforcement services to take action

An initiative to clean up the streets and promote livable conditions in Lac La Biche County is once again getting a push from enforcement services. This time, at an occupied unsafe apartment complex.

LAC LA BICHE - An initiative to clean up the streets and promote livable conditions in Lac La Biche County is once again getting a push from enforcement services.  

The Community Standards Bylaw guides Lac La Biche County enforcement services in ensuring property owners keep their dwellings in order and free of debris. One specific property in the area has experienced routine safety concerns, said Chris Clark, the County’s manager of enforcement services.

Victoria Apartments, located in the hamlet of Lac La Biche along 102 Avenue and 103 Street, has 25 units and is currently occupied by tenants who have had to deal with break-ins and poor conditions, he explained. The building, which is now under receivership by an appointed company after missed mortgage payments by the previous owner, is becoming a growing concern for the municipality. 

"The building is currently in receivership and we have had issues and complaints of people loitering as well as breaking into the building and sleeping inside the premises,” said Clark.

Also, in the last three months, a total of four unsightly properties have been demolished in the County after repeated communication and enforcement, stated Clark. The demolitions are in accordance with the County serving orders and working with the landowners to have the properties removed. 

Three of the properties were in the hamlet of Lac La Biche, while one was located outside the hamlet.  

Addressing concerns  

While the apartment complex is being maintained at the moment, tenants have voiced concerns to enforcement services, said Clark. 

“They’re concerned for the condition of the building as well as their safety in the building.” 

With the support of Alberta Health Services (AHS), emergency departments, police and the receivership company that has taken over the operations of the building, it has become a top priority to address those concerns, said Clark. 

“We're working with the receiver to have the building brought back up to a standard that meets our Community Standards Bylaw.” 

Partnerships 

While intervention and enforcement opportunities are being explored to remediate the safety of the property, Clark said the receivership company is looking to join the County’s new business partnership program. The new program allows owners to give peace officers leeway to enforce and respond to criminal behaviour occurring on their properties, he explains.  

The pilot program, which has kicked off in the hamlet of Lac La Biche, hopes to be a primary solution rather than having to force tenants to move out due to safety concerns. 

“The receivership company is actually wanting to explore us partnering with them and having our officers there for that property so that we can better tackle the issues of people entering the building unlawfully and trespassing on the property.” 

Recent enforcement escalations   

In recent months, a string of property owners throughout the County —and primarily on Main Street—have been issued tickets, warnings and reminded to adhere to the bylaws, while the municipality works toward addressing unsightly properties.  

“It's for the betterment of all of our residents and hopefully also attracting new residents to the town as well as businesses,” said Clark, speaking to why the County is taking steps to clean things up. 

Moving forward, enforcement services will continue to stay on top of unsightly properties and safety concerns. Most of all, Clark hopes to see commercial and residential property owners take pride in making the community safe and clean. 

“They need to know that we won't have derelict properties. It's a very slow and lengthy process but we're working on trying to clean up the community”