British Columbia

West Vancouver council threatens to demolish $2.9M home

The District of West Vancouver is threatening to tear down a multi-million dollar home after dealing with a four-year dispute over building permits.

Mayor says homeowners missed 29 building inspections

The District of West Vancouver is threatening to demolish this home at 733 20th Street over building permits. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

The District of West Vancouver is threatening to tear down a multi-million dollar home after dealing with a four-year dispute over building permits.

According to a staff report, the home at 733 20th St was built without building permits, proper inspections or adherence to district bylaws.

"The best option I think would be to take the house down," said Mayor Michael Smith at a council meeting Monday night. "I don't see what other options we have."

Some councillors agreed that knocking it down might get people's attention.

Council voted unanimously to file a bylaw contravention notice on the land title. Councillors hope it will warn "future gullible purchasers" that the home was not built in compliance with the B.C. Building Code.

Staff also noted deficiencies that could be dangerous to the community. "The [staff report] is a litany of horrors ... let's say this ... electrical work goes up in flames," said Coun. Craig Cameron as an example.

"The damage isn't going to be limited to this property."

'A bad movie'

In October 2013, Philip Garrow — the partner of Raven Flello, the registered owner of the property — filed a building permit application to add a garage and an addition to the existing one-storey home at 733 20th St.

The district said demolition began without a permit in February 2014 before a review of the application was complete. The first in a series of stop work orders was issued.

A building permit was issued later that month that allowed interior renovation, an addition on the south side of the dwelling and the addition of a garage. But the following month, district staff found the existing structure had been almost entirely demolished, and the building permit was cancelled.

"If you read the staff report, it's like a bad movie where we have years of abuse," said Smith. "We now have a situation where we have a house that's, by my count, got 29 missed building inspections."

This is the photo of 733 20th St. listed on B.C. Assessment's website. (B.C. Assessment)

Homeowners disagree

The homeowners did not attend Monday night's meeting but in an interview with CBC News, Garrow sees the situation differently.

"It's the district's position that the scope of the work that was carried out constituted a demolition to the existing structure," said Garrow, who is also a developer. "We disagree with that position both at the time and now."

In a 2014 petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Garrow alleged more than 25 per cent of the original dwelling remained, and the changes constituted an "addition or alteration."

He said the house was constructed in accordance with the initial building permit that was cancelled.

"It will be up to B.C. Supreme Court to decide whether or not the permit was valid or whether the structure was demolished. Ultimately ... we will act in accordance with any decision that's made on that basis."

The district filed a response setting out reasons why the permit was cancelled, but the homeowners haven't taken further legal steps.

It's not clear whether the district would be able to proceed with a demolition on a matter still before the courts. However, the staff report says "the owner did not pursue the petition and no further steps have been taken in this litigation."

Enough is enough

The mayor added Monday that it's a frustrating situation when most residents respect the law, and council needs to stand up to say "enough is enough."

"The bottom line is we have to make sure that people respect our bylaws," said Smith. "This has gone on way too long."

Staff will be reporting back to council with options for future action.

With files from Tina Lovgreen