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Penticton council defangs abandoned shopping cart bylaw

Chain stores will not be required to take any anti-theft measures or be issued fines
Two abandoned shopping carts left in the bike lane on Martin Street. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton city council decided to go ahead with an abandoned shopping cart bylaw, but it won’t penalize stores or require them to take any measures to prevent theft.

At the Tuesday, Oct. 3 meeting, council narrowly voted to go with only half the staff recommendations put forward to curb the plethora of carts stolen and dumped throughout the city.

City staff were recommending a series of measures including requiring stores to make ‘reasonable efforts’ like wheel locks and/or geofencing and the city could issue fines against stores that don’t deal with stolen shopping carts.

The carts are often used by the unhoused population to carry around their belongings.

The city receives calls on a daily basis for carts abandoned in creeks, the lakefront, side of the road and blocking sidewalks. At any given time, the city’s works yard is storing 100 carts.

The issue of abandoned carts is a costly one for the city and takes up a lot of bylaw officers time for going to retrieve them. The bylaw was a way to look at ways to make stores more responsible.

But Coun. Campbell Watt didn’t like that it was penalizing stores who are the ‘victims’ of cart thefts.

“It was not my intention in bringing this forward to be a burden on the businesses,” said Watt who made a new motion that removed requiring businesses to take anti-theft measures. The new motion also removed any punitive costs to stores.

The new motion passed 4-3 with councillors Amelia Boultbee, Ryan Graham and Helena Konanz opposed.

City development director Blake Laven who presented the bylaw said stores didn’t feel it was fair to be fined but they did acknowledge more needs to be done to deal with the issue.

“When we have a violation it would be months long to get voluntary compliance, unless a store is wilfully ignoring the bylaw,” said Laven before the vote.

Coun. Boultbee said any fines or fees would be a minimal cost to such large corporations like Superstore and Walmart.

“This bylaw would signal to corporate that they need to do something,” said Boultbee before the vote.

Regulating shopping carts is well within the city’s legal authority, confirmed Laven.

The vast majority of carts come from chain stores and the threshold for the bylaw would be for those businesses with more than 20 carts, said Laven.

Coun. Isaac Gilbert said he’d rather spend time and money on breaking the cycle of being unhoused.

“I’d rather see more work done to find them housing and into the services they need to break the cycle,” said Gilbert. He also pointed out that this bylaw will not result in a big drop in abandoned carts.

Staff will come back to council to formalize the bylaw at a later date.

The modified bylaw being proposed includes:

- Businesses must label shopping carts with store information and register contact information with the City

- Businesses must retrieve carts belonging to the store within a specified time and accept carts belonging to the business

- Minimal storage fee for cart storage at City Yards

The following staff recommendations for the bylaw were removed:

- Businesses must not permit carts to be removed from their premises, by taking ‘reasonable measures’ to reduce the unauthorized removal of carts, such as utilizing wheel locking technology, GPS chips, hired security or other methods

- Appropriate fines to be instituted for violations of the regulations

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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