North Cowichan’s dealings with the illegal occupancy of this shop/studio have been going on for many years. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Scrutiny of Chemainus accessory building coming to a head

Council to consider action to deal with longtime nuisance property on Cottonwood Road

A long-standing situation that’s caused consternation for North Cowichan, resulted in countless complaints to North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP and been the bane of existence for neighbours is on the agenda of council’s meeting Wednesday.

Staff reports have been prepared for council to consider imposing a Remedial Action Requirement for an accessory building at 9384 Cottonwood Road in Chemainus.

“As long as an enforcement file like this is under active investigation, I can’t really comment on specifics,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. “And I acknowledge that’s frustrating, both for me and for the community.”

“I can confirm that North Cowichan has been seeking bylaw compliance with the owner of 9384 Cottonwood Road since 2009,” noted Rachel Hastings, senior bylaw compliance officer.

”The key bylaw infraction is that under the Zoning Bylaw, this property is zoned for a single dwelling unit, but the garage has been used consistently as a second dwelling.”

Enforcement action is ongoing, she added, involving the RCMP and Island Health.

“We have had dozens of calls over the last few years,” said Const. Amron Christensen of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.

“We recognize there’s different viewpoints on this issue. We do everything we can and we act when we’re able to. Other times we just give advice and make recommendations or referrals.”

Hastings indicated the report being presented to council is related to ongoing bylaw contraventions in the absence of voluntary compliance.

A building permit was issued for a shop/studio at the property in 2002. In January 2009, North Cowichan staff discovered the building was being used for residential occupancy and issued a stop work order to owner Webster Parker.

Enforcement efforts related to the unpermitted use continued through July 2012 when the owner removed the tenant from the accessory building.

It’s been ongoing ever since with complaints about noise, illegal activity and residential occupancy of the accessory building continuing.

North Cowichan noted Parker took steps to evict the tenants from the accessory building through the Residential Tenancy Board process in August of 2018. The tenants appealed and the Supreme Court upheld the removal decision, with a deadline of August 15, 2018 to vacate.

As recent as January of 2019, North Cowichan conducted an inspection and found the building was no longer being occupied for residential use. But by April of this year, North Cowichan staff attended the property to conduct another investigation with representatives of the RCMP and Island Health and discovered new tenants were occupying the accessory building for residential purposes and it continues to be occupied.

Parker contends he’s done all he can to evict the occupants without success under the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch. He stressed any current occupants are not his tenants, and someone else brought them in.

Parker said “it’s been months and months” since he’s collected rent from anyone at the property.

With the Remedial Action Requirement, council could deem the building a nuisance and unclean so as to be offensive to the community and require the building to be removed or demolished; filled in, covered or altered; brought up to the standard specified by the bylaw or otherwise deal with it in accordance with someone authorized by council.

The staff report acknowledged there has been a significant amount of staff and RCMP time attributed to the issues of the property. Without further action, “it is probable that these issues will continue and additional cost will be incurred by the Municipality to continue to monitor the property,” the reports states.

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