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Neighbours, city staff fed up with McGowan house

The room where the fire started is also the entry point for the many pigeons living in the house at 356 McGowan Ave.
Image Credit: City of Kamloops
November 19, 2013 - 1:23 PM

KAMLOOPS – A fire in September 2008 left a house on McGowan Avenue uninhabitable to all but pigeons and since then neighbours have been complaining about the state of the property and all but begged the city to take action on what they see as a neglected property.

Council has been presented with more than 180 pages of background information, including letters and petitions from neighbours, correspondence with the homeowner and several inspection reports, and will make a decision on the property today.

Neighbours call the property 'unsightly' and question whether the city has taken so little action over the past five years because the house is in the North Shore area.

“356 McGowan Avenue is an eyesore,” Edith Pletzer says in a letter to council. “I am revolted every time I drive by the property — something that I do at least twice a day.”

In 2012 council declared the property a nuisance and asked for a professional report on the property and a remediation timeline from the owner, Lynda Watt. The subsequent inspection found harmful biological and animal pathogens and set out nine recommendations for remediation.

Watt has asked the city numerous times for patience and extensions but in 2012 said the property would be remediated by July 31, 2013. While neighbours claim Watt is being given too much time her letters to the city show her belief that she is facing stricter than normal regulations because her neighbours are complaining.

Watt has paid more than $30,000 to have new windows, doors and siding installed, but the company refuses to do the installation until the property is safe. Between the amount of debris in the house, the large flock of pigeons calling the property home and the air quality issues, the house is considered anything but safe right now.

An inspection on Aug. 1, 2013 found that while a large amount of debris had been removed from the home since 2008, conditions inside the home were still not suitable for habitation and a lot of combustible materials remained in the home. The property was also not secured from unauthorized entry and debris was being stored in the yard and in the abandoned vehicles in the yard.

Staff feel they have done everything possible to try and get Watt to clean up the property and are now asking council to take further action. Deeming it unsafe and a nuisance staff would like to see 45 days given to Watt to remove all debris, clean up the interior to the point where the air quality is safe and repair all damaged windows, doors, siding and soffits. If not completed within that time the city would have the right to go in and complete the work, charging it all to the homeowner.

Development Services Director Marvin Kwiatkowski says he can't think of any other house fire cases that go on this long and while there have been other issues around this case, Watt admits to dealing with mental health and physical issues, the facts and bylaws are in place for a reason which is why staff is making recommendations to take action today.

Watt and several neighbours are expected to address council today before a final decision is made.

Planning and Development Manager Randy Lambright suits up for an inspection of 356 McGowan Ave in August.
Planning and Development Manager Randy Lambright suits up for an inspection of 356 McGowan Ave in August.
Image Credit: City of Kamloops

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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