Time's up for unsafe Kelowna house, City prepares for demolition
It will be almost three years until an order by Kelowna city council to demolish an unsafe house in a Rutland neighbourhood will finally be achieved.
But the city is determined to get the job done by this spring, at the latest.
“We’re proceeding, knowing that he has other properties where he could be,” Kelowna city clerk Stephen Fleming told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s not like we’re making him homeless. The property continues to be in non-compliance and continues to be a hazard so, belatedly, staff are getting around to implementing that council direction.”
City staff did not want to do the work and make the homeowner, Janusz Grelecki, homeless last winter but have since learned that the man has property in the South Okanagan.
That may soon change, however, as the executor of the estate of Grelecki’s former common-law wife has applied to the courts to sell that house and land, along with junk Grelecki has accumulated there for a decade.
In the summer of 2021, at the recommendation of staff, Kelowna city council set strict timelines for Grelecki to demolish his house at 424 Gibson Road, saying it was unsafe.
Over the years Grelecki had accumulated building materials in and around the house, telling iNFOnews.ca he was planning to renovate it.
But the house only had a partial balcony perched high over a sloping backyard and a roof that looked at risk of collapsing, along with assorted materials in and around the house and other structural concerns.
Council’s action came after seven years of bylaw officers trying to get Grelecki to clean it up and followed similar issues at another property Grelecki had occupied a couple of blocks away. Those complaints dated back to 2007.
Grelecki fought the 2021 order by, first of all, appealing directly to council, then filing a court action. He dropped that in 2022 but submitted a complaint to the BC Ombudsperson.
While there was never any formal investigation by the Ombudsperson, the office did talk to Fleming to ensure due process was followed.
That delayed any action by the city but staff were also concerned about making Grelecki homeless last winter and, with a new council elected in the fall of 2022, wanted to make sure they were aware of the situation.
Since then, the city learned that Grelecki had co-owned a house and 45 acres of land at 135 Partington Road in Kaleden with Marta Miles since 2013, living there part of the time.
Miles left that relationship in 2021, claiming assault, but Grelecki retained a half-ownership in the land, even after she died in 2022.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has been trying for the last two years to get to get Grelecki to clean up the building materials and other junk he’s been stockpiling there for the past decade.
“This property file is much different than the Kelowna property where significant life safety issues may exist from un-permitted renovations/additions,” Mark Petry, the regional district’s building and enforcement services manager, said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. “The Kaleden property is an unsightly property so the public risk factor is not our main concern based on our knowledge and inspections.”
But, Grelecki may soon lose that property.
Earlier this week, Miles’ executor, Emil Shane Miles, applied to BC Supreme Court in Kelowna, asking it to allow him to sell that property “as-is-where-is” without needing Grelecki’s signature on any of the paperwork since Grelecki has been uncooperative throughout the process.
The court filing says the property is appraised at $1,175,000 but it estimates it will cost $252,000 to clean it up and remove Grelecki’s personal property.
In October, Miles offered to sell his half interest in the land for half the appraised value but, the court filing says, Grelecki refused.
Grelecki has 21 days to respond to that application. If the land sells, he's still entitled to have the net returns.
The City of Kelowna’s original order was for Grelecki to get a demolition permit within 14 days, remove his personal property in 42 days, hazardous materials within 60 days then demolish the house and restore the land to its natural condition.
“All the notice periods and time lines have expired at this time so we’re just in the process of moving forward to complete the work that’s required to comply with the order ourselves,” Lance Kayfish, the City of Kelowna’s risk manager, told iNFOnews.ca. “We will hire an independent contractor who will deal with the whole process.”
That process will not be simple.
The city will have to remove and store any personal items Grelecki may have left behind, deal with hazardous materials and, possibly, salvage some of the building materials before demolishing the house.
The cost of all that work will be applied against the property.
“As much as the owner may not be in agreement with this direction, part of it is caring for the community, obviously, the neighbourhood, but also the individual,” Kayfish said. “We’re doing this because the property is unsafe. I don’t think it’s a safe living condition to be in.”
He's projecting the work will be finished in the spring but is hoping it will happen sooner.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. SUBSCRIBE to our awesome newsletter here.