Neighbours of an Okanagan Avenue condo development left in limbo are exasperated with the city’s inability to rectify issues that have been a source of frustration for more than four years.
At a recent meeting, council received a letter from George and Shelley Heggenstaller (also forwarded to the BC Ombudsperson’s office), regarding the property at 3161 Okanagan Ave. NE.
The letter reiterates concerns expressed in letters to the former council, regarding the property and the state it’s been in since 2007, when its developer began the process of rezoning from R1-single family residential to R4-medium density residential, to construct a condo development.
At third reading, the council of the day required a covenant to be put in place prior to final reading, restricting removal of trees that had been on the property. The trees were then removed prior to fourth reading, before the covenant could come into effect. The development failed to proceed, remaining at third reading and, subsequently, the Heggenstallers have had ongoing dust issues and other concerns.
Regarding concerns related to a sewer installed by the developer, city engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen said the developer had removed the existing manhole and put in a new one without the city’s permission. The city is holding onto a $3,000 bond from the developer to assure the work is properly completed.
“We’re still holding the bond to repair that, but we’re also waiting to see if he’s going to come back and finish the work,” said Niewenhuizen. “It’s not against code, it’s just that it was done without the approval of the city.”
Otherwise, a letter of response to the Heggenstaller by city administrator Carl Bannister explains that the developer is currently not in contravention of any bylaws. This, however, did not sit well with council. Couns. Marg Kentel and Ken Jamieson were particularly frustrated with the city’s inability to have the developer take actions that would help alleviate his neighbour’s concerns.
“It is staff’s job to do the bylaws and at the moment the bylaws are not being contravened, apparently. But I do think it is our job, here at the table, to ask for more to be put into them to prevent this and to help with this situation,” said Kentel, who also had concerns of her own relating to a steep slope.
“I don’t want to just sit here and say we can’t do anything because I think it would be pretty easy for a child to take a bike and accidentally roll down that bank. I’m not willing to say we can’t do anything.”
Mayor Nancy Cooper said she spoke to the developer and was told that more grass would be planted to help alleviate the dust, but nothing had been done yet. She suggested a letter be written to the developer, and that staff look to other communities to “see if they have an unsightly bylaw or some other kind of a bylaw that would be able to address this kind of an issue.”
In the developer’s defence, Coun. Chad Eliason said the development was a victim of the economy.
“You wish you could do something, but if there’s no money to do that and no market for that project to go forward, then there isn’t very much that we can do,” said Eliason.
Coun. Alan Harrison, however, recommended something more specific be drafted.
“We want planting on the east side and the gravel cleaned up, and the bylaw enforcement officer could help us as far as specifics to changes that we want to see,” said Harrison. “And we give a timeline of, say, July 15. The letter from staff does say there is at least one condition where issuance of fines may be appropriate, so I think we could mention that. I think we’ve tried to appeal to their being a reasonable neighbour and that hasn’t worked very well so far.”
Council agreed to write the letter, though this didn’t appear to appease George Heggenstaller, who spoke to council afterwards.
“I’m not sure about the laws and the bylaws in this town but something needs to be done to change the way you do things… and to protect owners like us from having to go through this stuff again,” said Heggenstaller.
“I know we’re going to get nothing out of it, but hopefully somebody down the road won’t have to go through this. Six years, it’s not over, and nobody here says they can do anything. It’s unbelievable, it really is.”