What’s it going to take?

To the Editor:

At its January12th meeting Council passed Bylaws 2097 and 2098. This may seem like a non-issue, but look deeper at 2098. This Council like the last two has seemingly allowed City Hall to run them. Both bylaws contain caveats that if in disagreement Council gets involved. How much time is wasted getting to this point ? A professional builder may stand a chance but the average everyday Revelstokian stands little chance. Planning and Engineering have been in the driver’s seat from the beginning. The two biggest areas of contention and frustration are Planning and Engineering.

I have attached as an example an email I sent to the five new Councilors and cc’d to the Mayor. It is but one small issue by itself. I have never received a response from any of them. You can read the text of that e-mail at the bottom of this letter.

In terms of structure the Director of Engineering oversees Planning. We have a one-man band. I will never question the heads of both areas academic achievements. I will challenge they both came here with little knowledge of Revelstoke. What is their vested interest in Revelstoke as neither to my knowledge is a homeowner. The CAO shows up buys a home and it shows investment in our town no guarantee but noticed. Revelstoke had a reputation of innovative and at times less than mainstream approach to issues. We have become the little mountain town that couldn’t. We can’t get development right — too tall, too big, too far and on and on. Name a significant project since the Greeley Water Treatment project that came in on budget or even close. Tell me of any consequence of the Courthouse massive overrun. I believe a large part of the problem is that Council itself has not created needed policies or given clear direction to City Hall.

There seems to be a mindset in City Hall that I am just a disgruntled former employee. While I am certainly glad to be gone from the gong show nothing could be farther from the truth. I am far enough down life’s trail that I can survive the antics and if bad enough I can take my own advice. There is a bus leaving every day.

I chew on the City for one reason alone. I was born here and lived here 60 years, This doesn’t give me any more seniority than those who came last week. I would like to see young families, singles, seniors and who ever else would come here given a chance to put down roots.

The problem is this. Councils almost a decade ago seemingly stopped creating policies of their own. We have endured City Hall policies that don’t embody the spirit of Revelstoke. We become cloned entities of books and knowledge of those who do not get or understand small town. Councils of way back were accused of being old boys’ clubs, sometimes rightfully so but they accomplished much with the spirit of Revelstoke always in the foreground. Tony Coueffin, for example, was a logger by trade but an ambassador always of this town. In my opinion he always had the interests of what was best for the citizens of Revelstoke in the foreground not what was best for the bottom line at City Hall.

I listen to the Mayor’s Report, read Council agendas and used to attend public meetings. Time and time again I watch bylaws and policies pass. The policies for secondary suites is City Hall driven. While giving due credit for the issues related to build and safety read it. My take in short version is “you have decided to build a suite and wanted to do it in the right and legal way. We (City Hall) in turn will charge you double utilities even though the total house likely had more people living in it before you built the suite and still has the original two bathrooms. We will add a business license as well, as we like to keep track of our revenue stream. We will not actively pursue illegal suites because it costs money, sucks to be you , the illegal ones have a much lower overhead.

Perhaps Council could write new regulations along these lines:

  • Flat fee charge to build;
  • Fixture-based utility charge; and
  • A business license as the City really, really likes to keep track of its revenue stream.

I know its short but common sense usually is.

Vacation rentals (you have to apply for a zoning change to add the little “V”) the little “V” that’s not for value as at present we are making it expensive.

Council just maybe treat it like a building variance process. Define a radius distance from the request. Notify the affected neighbours of the intent. Keep the rules they can be good. Let the outcome be based on majority vote as those who live in the neighbourhood will have to live with it not City Hall. An easy non-discriminating outcome. Yes, a business license, you get it we like the cash.

As far back as the 2009 OCP era the mention of densification of housing, carriage houses has been talked about. That is where it is talk. The need to look at lowering the minimum size of suites some streamlining of process to entice every day people to think they might be interested. There is hardly a week that goes by that there is not talk of need for more housing. The latest articles on shared housing. The possibilities of a smaller suite in a seniors home where by an agreement for reduced rent would help the senior look after the whole home and perhaps be able to stay in there home longer. The young family that could afford a small suite to offset the mortgage and perhaps the children gain another “grandparent “ or aunt/uncle.

The present fee setup with suites is not unlike a pride of lions looking for lunch. The slow (honest) one is it.

The Hotel association has come to Council seeking some regulation on illegal accommodations. How can they compete with an entity with such low overhead. City Hall seems to portray it would cost too much to fix. Nice support for your commercial tax payers .

The City seems to be continually mired in expansion after expansion requests. In itself they have both merit and liability. The time is long over due for Council to start doing something for the everyday Revelstokian in regards to secondary housing. We are a ski town right, wrong or indifferent. Start making Council-derived policies that will provide opportunities for those who may want to create and benefit from a small suite or carriage house. The City benefits from the increased assessments it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Under the present structure I, like many, would not pull a permit for a dog house. I admire those who brave the bureaucracy and do so in spite of it. In driving around, though, I see a lot of new doghouses sure messes with the assessment.

Council, Revelstokians newly elected all but one of you as a sign change was needed. You need to choose: are you going to create, yourselves, policy and bylaw frame work that serves the taxpayers… or City Hall ?

Bob Melnyk

The following e-mail was sent to Mayor McKee and all members of Council on October 26:

I am sending this email to the five new Councillors. I am aware at this time there is an issue before you in regards to water services. While this is not to object or question the provincial codes it is your P/E senior staff that is using their position to force their own opinion on Revelstoke. Having read the areas of the code and sent them to Mr. Strachan who has rejected them I request that you make yourselves aware of the code language.

I became involved in one of these issues. A Mr.— applied for a permit to add a bathroom and bedroom to his home. In trying to do what is right and understand the fixture count sheet that the City has created itself, which does not contain all relevant or correct info he was faced with a bill for over 3200.00 Needless to say he was flabbergasted. All that he received was a bill . It was pointed out that his building permit was $438 but he had to pay $2,800 to have the City change the line on City property because he required a one-inch line not a 3/4 which he had upgraded to years earlier. He had filled out the form incorrectly.

I became involved filled out the sheet using info I obtained from the codes’ branch. There was never any break down of the two values he had to pay only the statement that both had to be paid or he would not be given his permit. In many back and forth emails with Mr. Strachan I repeatedly sent him the code info. He continually disregarded it. I advised Mr.— that the simplest route was to delete the second sink in his new bathroom as the ongoing dialogue (Strachan says second sink in vanity counts for 1.4 fixture units code says 0.7) was going to end up where I felt  this may have reflected back negatively on how Mr. —-would be treated until his project was completed. This may sound insignificant but is the difference between meeting the code 16 total units and 16.7 units which he has been assessed by Strachan.

This represents a cost of $2,800. The bigger issue is this  code only applies from house to property line. The code states this very clearly. The City has historical had the stand that if the change is only one size 3/4 to 1″ the home owner is required to install this on their property which is code. The City left the their part of the line as is and when the streets where to be redone they also would upgrade to the larger size. Having been the one doing this for over 10 yrs I speak from experience. The future ramifications of these type of issues will result in our town being a mass of cut up roads as under the P/E empire this will affect every addition to a home that exceeds fixture count of 16. It lays the path to exposing all homeowners to the reality that if the city portion of the line (in the right of way) leaks the individual homeowner will be exposed to a 5-10 thousand dollar bill. This has not been done before and I feel that this is not what was ever intended. The City has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on renos at City Hall and new desks to improve services. The problem lies behind the desk. The lack of help from the beginning , as a homeowner does not always know  they need to ask a question. The use of an incomplete and incorrect info form(look at the back table B it shows kitchen sink is 3 fixture units then look at the other list for kitchen sink it shows 1.4 units ) there is no listing for a lavatory which is a bathroom sink to the rest of us.How is a homeowner supposed to deal with this? No info to understand the ramifications of exceeding the 16 unit ceiling. The huge costs are only known when you go to get your permit and you get no breakdown so as to see what just happened.

I feel people in senior positions that never buy a home here never have a vested interest in our community only a pay cheque. I can itemize you a total in the $2 million range of what happens when personal agendas go unchecked give me a call.

As a taxpayer we have no say on hirings or firings and rightfully so. We elected 7 people to represent our best interests and given the above as but one of many similar examples we look to you as your staff seemingly dances to their own tune ignoring codes and what serves this community best.

Bob Melnyk