By Andrea Arnold
During the Valemount Council meeting on February 28, Council sought to place sanctions via a “notice on title” for the property located at 1144 6th Ave due to the installation of a wood burning appliance within an accessory building and the occupancy of the unit without an occupancy permit, contrary to both the BC Building Code, and village bylaws.
Building Inspector Dean Schneider confirmed the building is still occupied.
Councillor Pete Pearson asked what other action is available to have the dwelling vacated. CAO Depenau said staff will look into other options besides the fines that have been issued.
Councillor Hollie Blanchette commented that this issue has been ongoing since Aug. 2021. She asked why the RCMP have not gotten involved and why the person still lives there.
She said there has been no payment for the fines that have been issued, and she is concerned it is a dangerous situation for the tenant as the structure livability is unknown.
CAO Depenau said the RCMP have not been involved. Councillor Blanchette moved to amend the original motion to include contacting the RCMP immediately to find out what they can do to have the tenant removed. Councillor Pearson said he isn’t sure RCMP is the first step but agreed that something proactive is needed.
“Unfortunately they are making more in rent than we are charging in fines,” he said. “Asking for forgiveness instead of permission, is happening too often. I agree we need to move forward, but I am not sure the RCMP are the resource to be the next step.”
Through communication with the tenant, Mayor Torgerson believes the Village will have the opportunity to further engage with the property owner.
“I think that nobody wins if we go down there with a bulldozer and ‘get out.’ It’s winter,” he said. “But I do agree with you around compliance with the building code. We really have zero idea about the work that has been done (on the building). It has never been reviewed or stamped by building services.”
Councillor Blanchette asked about having the RCMP accompany the bylaw officer to the property to have a conversation.
CAO Depenau said that he had reservations about involving the RCMP during contact with the tenant.
“At the moment, we have significant concern with the property owner who is engaged in these activities and so far hasn’t reached compliance despite attempts,” he said. “I don’t know that the same feelings apply to the tenant in this case, who would be the one suffering potentially from an eviction of some sort.”
Depenau’s second point was about jurisdiction, and if the RCMP are the ones to address the issue.
“I appreciate the safety element there around the provincial legislation for the building code is the piece that is the most concerning around the safety of the facility,” he said. He agreed to find out where jurisdiction lies before involving the RCMP.
During discussion, it was disclosed that the property owner is not in the community, that they live in the Lower Mainland. Communication to the owner has been through letters. Copies of these were included in the agenda for the Feb 28 meeting. Letters from CAO Depenau, Building Inspector Dean Schneider and Bylaw Enforcement Officer Evan Smith.
A letter was sent on January 19, 2023 summarizing the several violations that have not been rectified.
A stop work order was issued for unauthorized alterations and structural repairs in August 2021. In January 2022 a bylaw violation was given due to the unauthorized installation of a wood burning appliance. March 2022 a final notice was given regarding the bylaw violations. And in December 2022 another letter inviting the property owner to be heard by council or submit comments and information by noon on Jan 10 was sent. However, no response was forthcoming. The letter also stated that there is a fee to have a notice on title removed once it it in place.
The letter sent in January contained similar information and gave the property owner another opportunity to be heard by council at the meeting on the 28th, or submit comments and relevant information by noon on Feb 27.
Depenau reported that contact was made with the individual on Monday, Feb 27 at 11:50 am. He said that the owner seems to show willingness to comply. They said they are unaware of any previous correspondence regarding the secondary structure but village staff are not convinced that statement is accurate.
By unanimous vote, Council agreed to proceed with placing a notice on title on the property, protecting those with an interest in the property.
“A notice on title can be removed once outstanding issues are addressed,” said CAO Depenau. “The Village is in contact with the owner and we look forward to working together to resolve the current concerns.”
Councillor Blanchette again expressed great concern regarding the wood burning appliance and safety. However, with the new knowledge that the owner is not on site, she agreed sending the RCMP may not be the best option.
Council agreed to determine where jurisdiction lies and then move forward to resolve the issue.
“It is hoped that the owner of the property in question will work to reach compliance with the building code and local bylaws,” said CAO Depenau.