Peace River Regional District Takes Another Look at the Building Bylaw

Trent Ernst, Editor

After a near-riot broke out in the rural areas of the Peace River Regional District, the PRRD is taking another look at the recently-revised bylaw.

The Revised Building Bylaw will be discussed at the PRRD Committee of the Whole Meeting May 23 at 9 am at the Dawson Creek PRRD office. The Board will be discussing the recently revised Building Bylaw 1996, 2011.

The discussions come after a series of meetings by residents, who are strongly in opposition to the bylaw.

This bylaw is the fourth revision since 1973 which authorizes the PRRD to regulate the construction, alteration, repair and demolition of buildings and structures for the health, safety and protection of persons and property.

The Peace River Regional District Committee of the Whole (CoW) is a meeting of the PRRD Board of Directors, staff and invited guests to discuss items of interest to the Peace River Regional District that require understanding, discussion and / or debate prior to making any formal decision. CoW discussions can lead to recommendations for the PRRD Board to consider in a formal Board meeting. Fred Cornelssen, Building Inspector for the PRRD says that this new meeting is a chance for people to come in and express their opinions for all the directors to hear, and to gather feedback. “After that, the directors will sit down and discuss it,” says Cornelssen.

He says the current plan is not to change it, but that’s up to the directors to decide. He says that a lot of the furor is about a mis-understanding of what the new bylaw does. “People say ‘Why the whole district? I’m way out in the bush, why do I have to get a building permit?’ Well, okay, but then why do people closer to town have to do it? Why do people in town have to do it?”

Cornelssen says that one of the biggest problems people are having is the need for a licenced contractor to do the work. “That’s wrong,” he says. “They only have to do that if they need to deal with the home owner protection warranty.”

On March 18, 2013, the Peace River Regional District expanded the existing mandatory building inspection area to include the entire rural area of the Regional District. The application of Peace River Regional District Building Bylaw No. 1996, 2011 in all rural areas ensures fair and equitable application of building code requirements. The building bylaw is in accordance with best practices for application of the updated 2012 BC Building Code, Plumbing Code and Fire Code. Building inspection also supports purchasers and sellers in an increasingly strict lending and insurance environment says a release from the regional district.

Cornelssen says that many of the houses outside municipal boundaries are no longer rustic cabins. “It is going to cost between $200,000 and $400,000 to buy these properties. The banks are turning around and asking for an inspection. But we didn’t do this to please the banks. We did it to make it fair to everyone. If you have to have a permit in town, you have to have a permit out of town. Are we going to chase people down who don’t tell us? Probably not. But if you get a permit, we’re going to check setbacks to make sure you are actually on your property and going to give you a permit so that you can sell.”

He says that many people are saying they have no plans of selling, but he’s also heard from people who say that they had no plans of selling, but are now running into issues as they try and sell their houses. “Or they’re willing the property to their kids, but the kids don’t live here, they live in Washington. When they try to sell, it’s a big headache.”

On a $320,000 house, says Cornelssen, a permit would be $1600. “That includes plan review, the inspections, and an occupancy permit at the end.”

He says that people are telling him they’ve been building for years, and now the PRRD is telling them they’re doing it wrong. “No, we’re not saying that. All we did was extend the permitting area and reword some of it to bring it up to wording for today. It’s no different from living in Tumbler Ridge. Now we’re saying in the country you need to have a permit, too.”