A bulldozer tears down the a townhouse unit at Northumberland Court. The property on North Avenue

A bulldozer tears down the a townhouse unit at Northumberland Court. The property on North Avenue

Northumberland site still a problem

Neighbours complain about derelict property on site of old ghetto in downtown Maple Ridge

The empty lot that once housed one of Maple Ridge’s most notorious slums has once again become a campsite for drug addicts and the homeless, much to the frustration of neighbours.

District of Maple Ridge staff cleaned the North Avenue property Wednesday after receiving repeated complaints about it becoming a dump for everything from tires to tarps.

Hours before bylaw staff arrived, John McKenzie, who lives in the neighbourhood, picked up syringes and crack pipes from the grassy knolls where he sees neighbourhood children play.

I’ve only been complaining about the “ghetto” for more than 10 years now, he said.

“Yes, I’m peeved at having to continually deal with this. The guy yesterday couldn’t fit all of the trash on his truck, so there’s a bit left behind.”

The property in question was the site of Northumberland Court, a townhouse complex that was a haven various kinds of illegal activity.

Ghalib Rawji purchased the property after the buildings were vacated and planned on redeveloping it, but the district says that idea has been shelved.

Rawji was been billed for Wednesday’s cleanup, an annual exercise, according to the district.

“It appears that this is a once-a-year problem for us,” said director of bylaws Liz Holitzki.

The district issued Rawji cleanup notices under its unsightly premises bylaw in 2012, a year after he purchased the property, and in 2013.

“He is a bit slow in cleaning up, but he usually gets it done. However, this time he took too long, which caused the bylaw officer to take action,” Holitzki added.

But residents of the neighbourhood point out that the former Northumberland property isn’t the only one in the area that generates complaints. Another is a lot owned by the district at the end of 224th Street, opposite historic Haney House.

The bylaws department said that lot was cleared by parks staff one or two weeks ago, but is on the list for another cleanup.

McKenzie and his neighbours welcome the renewed focus and hope the district continues to keep an eye on vacant downtown properties so issues don’t spiral out of control as they have in the past.

“It is a council directive that the bylaw enforcement department be proactive in the downtown core so we do not wait for a complaint in order to enforce,” Holitzki said.