November 20, 2013 - 10:14 AM
KAMLOOPS – It was the scene of a fire more than five years ago and has been considered an official nuisance property for more than a year. Tuesday more than a dozen neighbours packed into council chambers to make their case for 'enough is enough.'
Erin Edwards, a seven year neighbour to 356 McGowan Ave, explained the issues go beyond just the visual appearance of the property. She expressed concern for the health of the neighbourhood because of mould and a flock of pigeons living in the house; for the health of owner Lynda Watt, who she said continues to enter without proper masks or equipment. She asked the city to put an end to the neighbourhood suffering.
“It's an extreme example of compassion,” Edwards said of the prolonged timelines given to Watt to clean up. “Don't grant any more extensions... the amount of time and stress the rest of us have had living next to rotting garbage.”
It was clear most of council wanted to show compassion for the situation but were fed up with the timelines.
“It's been five years, and it appears very little has been done,” Mayor Peter Milobar said. “What will change with an extension that five years hasn't? How can we be reasonably assured that stuff that hasn't been moved in five years would suddenly be removed?”
Watt was unable to attend because of health issues but her daughter Sandra was on hand. Not willing to speak about much because of what she called 'pending litigation against city employees and some neighbours' Sandra said the pictures shown are 'unrealistic' of what the inside currently looks like and the pigeons have been removed from the house.
She is the one to go in and actually clean out the house, wearing a mask, gloves and coveralls, and more than 1,000 pounds had already been removed since the August inspection. Sandra also said she works a couple jobs and it would likely take upwards of six months to complete the cleaning to the point where an air quality sample would likely come back clean enough the company waiting to install the windows, doors and siding would be able to enter the house.
She claimed cleanup and installation companies have been contacted by a city employee and told not to work on the house based on a report from 13 months ago and that false information was given. She wouldn't go any further into details about those allegations.
Coun. Pat Wallace still didn't feel a 45 day notice was enough to remedy the situation, she said she believes the issue will come before council again and wanted to see stronger action taken with the house torn down and the property sold. This elicited a few cheers from the neighbours but didn't garner any other support from the council table.
By the end of the discussion council easily came to the decision to grant 45 days to get the house cleaned up enough that the windows, doors and siding could be replaced. If the owner is not able to meet the requirements the city will step in to complete the job and it will be charged back to Watt.
This type of action doesn't happen often in the city according to Development Services Director Marvin Kwiatkowski but the fire department confirmed it deals with hazard properties on a regular basis but can only step in on a residential property when they get called in for a fire or by bylaws.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013