Friday, October 26, 2012

Bylaw-ed to Death...

The District of Coldstream says they do it.
They say they act on complaints.
...from neighbours.

But first, a sentiment that sprang to mind when I read the article:

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."  Winston Churchill

Seems the City of Vernon acts on complaints from neighbours too, according to this Letter to the Editor in the October 24th, 2012 issue of the Morning Star:  

 "My husband and I live in a two-level home built in 2010 with a suite in the basement built solely for the purpose of housing my elderly parents.

As a former nurse, I am able to provide support for my father and mother so they can continue to live together in a safe environment.

Not too long ago, someone in the neighbourhood reported that we had an illegal suite and the nightmare began.  True, my basement has a stove.  My father is a very good cook and provides all meals for them both.  Apparently, this was the main concern of the bylaw officer.

Bylaw 1520 may also be cited as the 9-page Rental Unit Standard of Maintenance Bylaw.

First of note is that this bylaw is referring to rental units, ours is not a rental unit.  What it becomes should we sell the house in a few years is of no consequence to us and we should not have to pay to have a rental unit just because one day it might be a rental unit.  Also for interest sake, did you know that bylaw officers have no concern about your rental suite unless someone complains about it?

"it has cost us $200 for an application for a permit for a secondary suite, $90 for the initial inspection, $100 for a building permit and $60 a year for a business license."

Now, from my understanding, all of the renovations we need to make are simply because my mother and father's home has a stove in it.  We are asked to put in two solid, steel fire doors (that makes three doors within three feet of each other) at a cost of $1,400, dampers in all of the vents upstairs and fireboard the furnace room walls (the ceiling of the entire suite has fireboard on it already).

The total cost has not yet been established but it has cost us $200 for an application for a permit for a secondary suite, $90 for the initial inspection, $100 for a building permit and $60 a year for a business license.

I was able to convince city staff we are not a business.  We make no profit off this suite and therefore we are not running a business but are simply providing a place for my parents to live.  They agreed we did not need to pay the business license.

Bylaw 1520 addresses water and sanitation, heat, light, egress, security and mandatory provision of services and utilities.  Nowhere does it address the issue of having a stove in the suite.

Nowhere does it provide direction on how the suite is to be secured because of a stove.  Nowhere does it say that if there is a stove, there needs to be fire doors, dampers, fireboarding or even smoke detectors.

Page eight of the bylaw addresses the notice to comply standards and once again it is referring to a rental premise.

So why is the city making it so difficult to keep relatives, especially elderly family members in our own homes?  All of the requirements made to us by the bylaw officer were based on the fact that there is a stove in my parent's suite.  Where does it say in this bylaw that we need to make all of these costly changes because of a stove?

To add insult to injury, they now say we need to pay separate water, sewer and garbage for the suite.

I guess that means we pay the base rate twice.  Not sure on that one.

I hope this will help someone else navigate the muddy waters of bylaw 5120 of the City of Vernon.

Be prepared.  Someone wants your money and don't make your neighbours upset because they obviously have more power than you do.

No grace for those who are trying to do the right thing and keep their relatives safe and comfortable. 
Debbie Sparrow"

Many know exactly how you feel, Debbie, getting caught up in the bureaucratic maze that seeks firstly to empty your wallet and, secondly, for your remaining cash to provide economic stimulus to the community (buying new doors, vent baffles and fireboard, etc. etc.)

And the impact of a neighbour's complaint doesn't go away anytime soon.

The City of Vernon's bylaws page (not so easy to find, by the was under "Residential Services" heading).  

"They're creating an East German 'snitch-society'," offers Kia, adding, "and look at how that worked out for them."

Good point, Kia. 


Friday, October 19, 2012

Water Consultants admit to lack of resources...water woes diary continues


Lack of resources?
Staff?  Data?
Yup to both.

A full 10 years (in my case) after installation of three water meters (irrigation, clubhouse, and residence), neither elected officials, nor bureaucrats, nor water consultants have any idea how much water is used by domestic customers on the Duteau Creek Water System.

"What information did we use to design our treatment plant at Duteau Creek?  Simple.      It was a guess."  Councillor Kiss

By extension, they then also don't know how much water is used by commercial, farm, industrial/light industry/institutional.

Nor how much revenue was received from quarterly water billings.

This can't be true!

Proof is in the following correspondence, available on the District of Coldstream website, as a late agenda item to the October 9th, 2012 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting:

"October 5, 2012 memo from Councillor Kiss to Mayor Garlick and Council:
Hi Jim, is a request I sent to David Sewell, copy to Trafford (Hall at RDNO), with the response.
It is beyond me how we can plan if these basic questions can't be answered.  What information did we use to design our treatment plant at Duteau Creek?  Simple.  it was a guess.  In order to design the treatment plant, one should have known what domestic water demand would be placed upon the Duteau source.  Putting in a treatment plant that would supply 2,000-3,000ML a year could have cost a fraction of the $29 million even with a small caliber parallel line to supply domestic users.  Who knows?  There is no evidence that a thorough analysis was carried out to determine the most cost effective plant.
I am perplexed about the reports the consultants are working on.
Tech Memo #2:  evaluation of water supply sources
Tech Memo #3: source storage and supply
Tech Memo #6:  water conservation strategies
... but should not we have had these reports before we built our treatment plant at Duteau?  ... Don't we have the information from the previous water plans?  

MWP (Master Water Plan 2002) produced 14 Technical Memoranda, as follows:
Technical Working Paper No. 1:  Inventory of Existing Systems and Water Demands
TWP No. 2:  Review of Financial Considerations and Strategies
TWP No. 3:  Community Development and Land Use
TWP No. 4: Water Conservation and Reuse
TWP No. 5:  Projection of Water Demands
TWP No. 6:  Water Quality Goals
TWP No. 7:  Evaluaton of Water Supply Sources
TWP No. 8:  Evaluation of Water Treatment Needs and Alternatives
TWP No. 9:  Development of a Separated Water System Concept
TWP No. 10:  Domestic Water System Development
TWP No. 11:  Irrigation System Development
TWP No. 12:  Options for Long Term Water System Development
TWP No. 13:  Implementation
TWP No. 14:  Water Rate Strategy

All we needed was an update of the above information...We need to have a thorough discussion on the water issue to mitigate the financial pressure placed on our taxpayers.  Gyula Kiss"

Councillor Kiss' memo to the Mayor and Council was prompted by this reply from the water consultant:

"October 4, 2012 email from David Sewell to Councillor Kiss, copy to Trafford Hall:
Gyula, As you know, the billing information for the customers of GVWU resides within each of the respective jurisdictions.  As these information systems are not integrated and use different platforms, a calculation of billing volumes and revenue summarized by water source would be an extremely time consuming and challenging process that at the present time we do not have the resources to accurately undertake.  The accuracy is further comprised(sic) by the degree of inter connection being built into the system. 
In discussions with the Administrator, it was suggested that if you would like to see this information gathering project advanced, please bring it forward through either GVAC or as part of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Master Water Plan process for discussion and prioritization relative to other resource draws.   Thanks.  David."

That was received after Councillor Kiss sent the consultant this question:

"October 3, 2012 email from Councillor Kiss to David Sewell, copy to Trafford Hall:
Hi David, I need some information regarding water revenue and volumes billed so I can contribute to the upcoming (District of Coldstream) budget preparations.   
I want to know what was the total domestic volume billed from the Duteau source and what was the revenue  as well as the same info relating to the Mission Hill treatment plant.  Domestic water includes industrial/commercial/institutional as well as home use.  I would appreciate receiving such info as this would help evaluating the cost effectiveness of each plant.  Thank you in advance.  Gyula".

Repeating Councillor Kiss' question is appropriate:

" we can plan if these basic questions can't be answered. " Councillor Kiss

Something else jumps out at this point, and that is Councillor Kiss' statement:  
 "Domestic water includes
 industrial/commercial/institutional as well as home use. "

So "domestic" includes EVERYTHING BUT FARM USE, including Okanagan Spring Brewery, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, car washes, golf courses, nurseries, water slide, restaurants, gyms, and...oh...residences.

All those classifications.
All broad-brushed as "Domestic".

As a taxpayer, I need to know what my taxes and water fees are used for.  Yes, the Federal Government contributed $12 million of the $29 million cost of the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant...but the Federal grant is taxpayer money too!

"You forgot the consultant's fee too," quips Kia.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Coldstream Council DOES Listen

They asked for public input concerning the proposed RU10/RU30 re-zoning of acreages.

And they received it...chiefly from the hastily-formed Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association, once it became clear to landowners that Mayor Garlick and his council were seeking to re-write the rules governing acreages in Coldstream.

But would Council back off the plan to rezone people's lands?

                "...taking two steps forward
                     and one step back."

Jennifer Smith's Morning Star story on October 5th, 2012, explains:  "After being met with considerable opposition, Coldstream has scrapped its original efforts to retain larger parcels of agricultural land.

The district had initially proposed to create a 10-hectare (24.7 acre) minimum  for future subdivisions of Agricultural Land Reserve property.

Among others, members of the Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association spoke out against the proposed limitations.  With the current land prices and economic situation, the association points out that many farmers cannot afford to purchase, or manage, large parcels of land.  Therefore smaller parcels are sought and also provide opportunities for aging farmers to cut down their workload while giving interested future farmers the chance to grow their own.  

In light of the concerns over proposed limitations, Coldstream is going back to the drawing board on its agricultural plan.

Instead of rezoning lands, Coldstream is renewing dialogue about the appropriate size for agricultural lands -- as part of an upcoming review of Coldstream's almost 20-year old Official Community Plan.  

The recommendation is for each non-farm use, subdivision or exclusion application to be considered on its own merits and based on a number of factors such as soil capability, land use, topography, utilities and roads, etc.

But not everyone is eager to rework the plan.

'This is like taking two steps forward and one step back,' said Coun. Maria Besso.  'But maybe it's a necessary step back.'

Besso sticks by Coldstream's efforts to retain large parcels of agricultural land, as she points out that there aren't many.

'93.2 per cent of the parcels within Coldstream are already less than 10 hectares.  That's a point that wasn't made clearly enough.'

Coldstream's new director of development services, Mike Reiley, adds:  'It is a bit of a dance but I understand it was a bit of a contentious issue here in the community.'

Coldstream will begin to initiate dialogue with residents and property owners in December and throughout 2013 as part of its OCP review."

Oh yes, Ms. Besso, the point was made clearly enough.
It's the point of the Coldstream Acreage Owners that isn't getting through to our elected officials, and that point is:

Ignore our point at your peril, Mayor and Council!

And now we landowners get to deal with this Mayor and Council all of next year as they manipulate acreage rezoning into the Official Community Plan. 

"Two steps forward and one back, indeed," sighs Kia, adding "they've been tripping over their feet with the legality of this from the get-go."