Access to a breezeway in the middle of a commercial complex in downtown Quesnel may soon be restricted by the installation of gates.
On Tuesday, June 21, City Council endorsed the recommendations to direct staff to work with the owner to establish an agreement for the placement and use of the gates, and to contribute up to $13,000 to the improvement of the space if staff feel an acceptable agreement can be reached.
The breezeway located on the 200 block of Reid Street was reopened in 2016 after decades of being boarded up to assist with the flow of pedestrians in and around the downtown during Reid Street construction.
“During the review by the city’s chief building official to reclose the breezeway, it was determined this could not be done without significant changes to the building as it designed to have the open-air breezeway,” said director of development services Tanya Turner.
“Although the building owner did originally decide to reclose the breezeway, that has not occurred and the city cannot compel the owner to complete this work.”
While a long-ago survey indicated business owners in the area were split about having the breezeway opened or closed, the breezeway is currently in a state of disrepair and tends to attract negative behaviour such as loitering and drug/alcohol use.
Turner said it was this year the subject of gates came up following a number of reports by the city’s bylaw enforcement.
Councillor Scott Elliott admitted he sometimes feels uncomfortable walking through the breezeway and does not believe the area is safe.
“But another aspect of this is it’s often used as a changing room as far as theft is concerned,” he added.
Elliott said he has seen on multiple occasions from the downtown shop he works at, people flee with stolen items towards the breezeway, where they emerge wearing different clothing.
“They use that to dump their clothes and have something else on, so it enables theft in the area on a lot of occasions.”
Because the building is up for sale, Councillor Martin Runge said he did not believe they should approve a financial contribution until knowing what was going on.
“I think it’s the business’s responsibility to do this,” Runge said. “I don’t want to see the city every time we have a safety issue at someplace that we come in and backstop it.”
At the end of the day, Turner noted there is no requirement for the owner to install the gates and that the city does not want to put the gates up if it is not a long-term goal for any future owner.
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