Tents pop up in downtown Courtenay

Grounds at former Palace Theatre have inhabitants

Several tents have popped up on the grounds where the Palace Theatre once operated in downtown Courtenay.

Heaps of clothing, propane tanks, bicycle parts, a baby stroller and other items are strewn across the grounds, which are enclosed by a fence at the corner of Fifth and England.

The City of Courtenay says the tents have been there for a couple of weeks. Since it is private property, the inhabitants of the tents are trespassing.

“It is the property owner’s responsibility to deal with the trespassers,” the City says.

A weather-beaten sign on the alley-side of the property lists the owner as First Nations Enterprises Inc., which has a Vancouver address. The signs reads: Prime mixed use site for sale. However, the company’s phone number is not in service.

“If it’s on City property or an eyesore, that would be a bylaw, so the City would have to deal with it,” Comox Valley RCMP Const. Rob Gardner said. “When it comes to being private property, it is the property owner.”

The owners could ask police to accompany and help keep the peace in case they decide to inspect the premises and chat with the tent inhabitants.

“Unless there is a court order or a court injunction, then we would step in,” Gardner said. “But other than that, we wouldn’t go and move people along or anything like that.”

Mayor Larry Jangula said the City, if necessary, could clean up the property and bill the owners. But the people would first need to move.

The Palace Theatre, formerly known as the E.W. Bickle Theatre, opened in 1940 with a screening of Boom Town, starring Clark Gable.

The theatre temporarily closed after sustaining damage in a fire in 2007. The building was demolished the following year.

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