PRRD looking to create new building bylaw with public consulation

After being repealed earlier this month, the bylaw was reinstated Monday morning at a special meeting, but only applies to building permits issued before November 14, 2013, and for those who make a request to obtain a permit in the future.

“This covers the middle ground that I think we’re looking for,” says Alternate Director Byron Stewart in for Director Lori Ackerman. “If people want or do not want to move within this system, they’re free to do so.” 

In order to bring the bylaw back, the PRRD board had to revote on repealing it, which was opposed but with three rural directors in favour: Area C’s Arthur Hadland, Area E’s Jerrilyn Schembri, and Area D’s Leonard Hiebert, the alternate for Wayne Hiebert, who resigned in October. 

Participating in the meeting via telephone, Hadland made it clear that he felt the meeting was out of order, and therefore illegal, as five business days notice were not given, and he felt the issue was not an emergency, which was met with applause by the packed gallery. 

Much of the discussion during the nearly 90 minute meeting revolved around whether or not rural residents’ ability to obtain financing for construction projects is affected by not having a building inspection process. 

“I called the local credit union and they just shrugged. This meant nothing to them,” says Hadland. “I called Farm Credit, which does a lot of the financing in the rural area, and they actually have no interest in our building bylaw at all.” 

“I fear there’s a huge risk to our region by companies who hear about this and all of a sudden say, ‘We’re not only not going to insure that building that hasn’t been inspected; we’re not going to write any coverage in that area at all,’” later responded Director Dale Bumstead, who served as the Chair of the Lakeview Credit Union board for 10 years. 

Both Hadland and Director Bruce Christensen wanted to get something in writing from the financial institutions that reportedly rely on inspections from the Regional District, before making a decision on the building bylaw. 

Chief Administrative Officer Fred Banham attempted to answer some of the other questions that directors had fielded, including that … can not be grandfathered in, and that the existing permits could not be completed anyways, as there was no longer a bylaw to authorize the PRRD’s two inspection officers. 

Director Gwen Johansson also raised the issue of there being no end date to the bylaw, given that many residents feel there are many deficiencies. 

“There are a number of people who may be interested in having a building permit based on that old bylaw in the rural areas where it’s voluntary, but they’re not willing to have it based on the present bylaw,” she maintains. 

A referendum on the matter is still scheduled for next year’s local government elections. With consultation, it could take six to nine months to come back with a new bylaw based on the boundaries and content of the old Building Bylaw 1189, 1998.

Area B Director Karen Goodings and Director Merlin Nichols voted against having a new building bylaw brought forward.

About Erica Fisher 4010 Articles

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.