iN PHOTOS: Owner of ‘unsafe’ house in Kelowna will fight the city in the hopes of saving his home | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN PHOTOS: Owner of ‘unsafe’ house in Kelowna will fight the city in the hopes of saving his home

Janusz Grelecki sitting in the front of his house that has been declared a nuisance and ordered to be demolished by the City of Kelowna.

After being ordered by the City of Kelowna to demolish his home, Janusz Grelecki is starting to clean up his property in an effort to get the city to back down.

Earlier this week, city council agreed with city staff that the house was a nuisance property with many building and safety violations and set a timetable for him to demolish it and restore the property to a natural state.

READ MORE: Owner of derelict Kelowna house surprised by city demolition order

“I don’t give up,” Grelecki, 70, told yesterday, July 29. “I give up, I’m dead.”

The house is at 424 Gibson Road, on the bench above Rutland with a panoramic view of the city.

The massive deck rotted years ago.
The massive deck rotted years ago.

According to B.C. Assessment, it was built in 1969 and is about 2,700 square feet on three floors.

It had a massive, 80-foot long deck overlooking the valley and rising some 30 feet above a swimming pool on the sloping land.

There is little left of that deck now, other than massive beams supported by steel poles.

Grelecki took ownership of the house in 2010 after moving in with the woman who had been living there. It’s unclear, due in part to his somewhat broken English, whether Grelecki was actually married to the woman when she died or if they were living common-law.

When he first got to know her, he pointed out that the deck was rotting and unsafe. Over a period of time Grelecki helped her maintain what was, even by that time, a building in rough shape, he said.

In the intervening years he’s done some work and bought all the material he believes he needs to finish the job of what he sees as a major renovation of the house.

He bought plywood eight years ago that's still sitting in this entrance hallway.
He bought plywood eight years ago that's still sitting in this entrance hallway.

He also farms and has livestock (pigs) at a farm in the Kaleden area and is looking after a spouse who has health issues, he said.

He just needs more time to finish the job, he said.

Inside the house are sheets of plywood stacked against a wall, bathroom fixtures, tools and a multitude of other supplies needed for the renovations.

Grelecki shows some of the bathroom fixtures he's bought over the years.
Grelecki shows some of the bathroom fixtures he's bought over the years.

That part of the house is cluttered and something of a construction zone.

But, his kitchen, office and living space look clean and, for the most part, tidy and orderly.

The kitchen, where he lives, is free of building supplies.
The kitchen, where he lives, is free of building supplies.

Outside, much of the deck has been removed and a good part of the roof is open to the elements. In the yard below is an old car, massive amounts of building materials and equipment.

Building materials in the lower back yard.
Building materials in the lower back yard.

The city says he did much of the work without building permits and it doesn’t meet the B.C. Building Code.

“Those standards – I talked to engineer – it's overkill,” Grelecki said, noting a retaining wall he built is still standing after 15 years and the house is structurally sound. He said, for example, it doesn’t need the structural beam the building code requires to support the top floor.

There has been some strong reaction on social media against the city’s efforts to have the house torn down and a GoFundMe campaign (Help Janusz Rebuild his Home) was launched by James Irwin, a neighbour who was there when visited.

It’s only raised $170 so far and Irwin was the only one to show up today for a work party to help Grelecki start cleaning up the property and help with the renovations.

But, it’s questionable whether there will be time to do that.

Grelecki is still waiting for a notice from the city about its decision and notifying him that he has 14 days to appeal to city council for a reprieve.

He does plan to appeal but it’s clear Grelecki doesn’t understand how that appeal process works.

“I just don’t like the idea of a 70-year-old immigrant having to do it all by himself,” Irwin said after Grelecki asked how is he supposed to convince the city the house is structurally sound.

“Is it better demolition or put it new and repair it?” Grelecki asked.

Despite it all, Grelecki is quick to smile.
Despite it all, Grelecki is quick to smile.

His next door neighbour doesn’t buy into the idea that things will change.

“It’s a scam,” Dave Lemky said. “He’s a hoarder. If he keeps the city thinking he’s going to finish the project, he can keep storing all that material there. It’s just to support his habit of hoarding.”

Lemky has lived next door since before Grelecki was involved with the project and doesn’t believe anything will improve unless the city stands tough and forces it to be demolished.

But he does agree that the house was in bad shape when Grelecki arrived.

In the meantime, Irwin is helping load a trailer to start hauling some of the materials down to Grelecki’s farm.

“My family’s Icelandic,” Irwin said. “When a volcano goes off we all have to come together. That’s just something that we do when something goes wrong. I may not be able to help the man. Maybe all I can do is help him clean up his yard. And maybe he’ll teach me a thing or two. Maybe I’ll learn something.”

Grelecki says he’s an immigrant from Poland and trained in five trades, including as an electrician, plumber and crane operator, arguing he has he skills to do the job.

Anyone interested in helping in the clean-up effort can contact Irwin at 250-899-7379.

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.

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