PRRD receives building bylaw backlash from rural residents
By Jill Earl
DAWSON CREEK- Directors of the Peace River Regional District will hear from individuals opposed to the recently revised Building Bylaw 1996, 2011, during their Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled on May 23.
The bylaw was implemented on Mar. 18 and has been met with some opposition since then.
Due to public concern, during the April 25 meeting board members directed staff to review the information provided to the public regarding the bylaw to ensure that the information was clear and that it explained why the bylaw had been extended. Directors also asked staff to hold information meetings to explain the changes to the public and prepare information about the bylaw for the May 23 meeting.
The entire province of B.C. is required to follow the B.C. Building Code. Before the bylaw came into effect the PRRD had mandatory and voluntary inspection areas within the region that ensured compliance with the code for those in mandatory areas. Considering changing the bylaw came after the Electoral Area Directors Committee raised concerns about unequal application of it, and it was eventually recommended that the district update the bylaw. The current bylaw mandates that all new construction in the region’s approximately 12 million hectares is under the mandatory building code inspection bylaw.
One resident opposed to the revised bylaw is Montney resident, Dean Anderson. He believes that the new bylaw will cost more time and money for those wishing to build. Anderson said because inspectors are given 72 hours to inspect the property, this would cause a delay in construction. He said building owners will also lose money on the contractors and hired labourers, who are paid for the time they’re not working. Anderson added that landowners can’t realistically send these labourers home without pay, as many will find work elsewhere.
“If we calculate the hourly rate of $70 to $100 per hour on a ten hour day for usually a minimum crew of four we have an additional cost of $40,000 to $55,000 plus the cost of all the rental equipment that is sitting idle,” wrote Anderson in a letter to the PRRD, calculating the costs associated with a two week delay for an entire project.
Chief administrative officer for the PRRD, Fred Banham, said that there are approximately five required inspections throughout the course of construction. He said that the PRRD has been issuing an average of 140 building permits each year for the past five years. The PRRD employs two building inspectors.
Anderson admits that the B.C. Building Code does have a lot of good minimum standards for building construction but said that many independent rural residents want to build wherever and whenever they want with complete freedom and that many rural residents already build to the code’s standards.
“They look after their own road construction, snow clearing, water and sewer and live with subpar electrical, telephone and internet services. They do this because they love the freedom that living in the country brings. This freedom also means that they can build a shed, chicken coop, barn, shop or house where and when they want,” Anderson said.
A press release issued by the PRRD earlier this year stated that the district believes that the new bylaw ensures safety to residents by ensuring builders and contractors have complied with the B.C. Building Code.
“For many years the Regional District has required building inspection for only a small portion of the rural area. With rapid growth and investment in the region, public and financial expectations for meeting minimum construction standards and safety have also increased,” said PRRD chair Karen Goodings, in the press release.
“This new building bylaw responds to those expectations and fairly applies building inspection requirements for everyone,” she added.
Anderson doesn’t believe that the bylaw’s primary concern is safety; he believes safety is not an issue.
“There has not been one single person injured or killed because a chicken coop fell down on them… just because a building inspector comes out and makes sure that you have got weeping tile or make sure that you’ve got the proper amount of rebar in your foundation… people are not going to get hurt because of it, it’s not a safety issue, that is totally false,” he said.
The PRRD believes the revised bylaw is fair for the entire district. They advertised the changes in local media during the month of February and made staff available at the Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John trade shows to discuss and explain the changes. Recommendations from staff in the May 23 PRRD meeting include hosting more public meetings regarding the bylaw.
“We should have the ability to say yes we want this to go ahead or no, we don’t want this to go ahead…we should have had public meetings and then we should have had a referendum saying a) yes we’re willing to bear the cost of something like this or b) no we’re not,” Anderson said.
His hopes are that the PRRD repeal the bylaw and reinstate the previous one.
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