Chilliwack homeowner given a month to clean up

"The City is doing everything in our power to deal with this," said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz

City officials are dealing with a severe hoarding situation involving an elderly homeowner near downtown Chilliwack.

Unsightly as well as unsafe conditions are cited in a city staff report about the property at 46493 Mayfair Avenue.

Complaints are coming in about the rats, possibly finding shelter in the piled garbage, unlicensed vehicles and overgrown bushes on the property.

“The City (of Chilliwack) is doing everything in our power to deal with this,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz, posting on a local Facebook page that had people complaining about the issues arising from the dilapidated property.

Property owners are now required to clean it up, or the city will take action, and the costs will be added to the tax bill.

Council passed one remedial order requiring an exterior cleanup of the garbage and debris, and another for the interior to enforce city bylaws and get help for the occupants, in recognition that there are often mental issues at play.

The property in question, with its overgrown bushes, weeds, and garbage, has been declared a nuisance, and said to be creating a health and safety risk to the occupants and their neighbours. Council moved ahead July 16 on the file, approving a ‘Request for Remedial Action’ under Section 72 of the Community Charter.

If the owner wants to contest, it will go to a show cause hearing, which is like the city’s version of court. The owner was given 30 days to appeal.

The situation could become the catalyst needed to creating a part-time task force to deal with growing numbers of hoarding cases in Chilliwack.

Coun. Chuck Stam asked at the meeting about the possibility of consulting with or providing specialized help, required when dealing with mental health issues as mitigating factors.

The matter was also referred to the public safety committee.

Although a two-person Hoarding Response Team is in place serving those in the Vancouver area, there is no similar service for Chilliwack.

The staff report documented how all ongoing and extensive efforts to gain voluntary compliance with the aged owner had failed.

As conditions on the property continue to deteriorate, bylaw enforcement staff has fielded several complaints.

“Namely, the overgrown brushes and garbage are now attracting and providing shelter for vermin which is causing considerable concerns as to the health and safety of those living in the neighborhood and for the elderly property owner and her son,” reads the report.

The registered owner will be provided with the opportunity to make representation to Council to plea for additional time to complete the remedial action or for reconsideration of the remedial action.

Coun. Stam said they are forced to “turn up the heat” on agencies like Fraser Health to provide assistance.

“This is a public safety issue,” he said Monday.

A part time task force to deal with hoarders in Chilliwack would be ideal, since they’ve notice an increase in awareness of, and of the hoarding cases themselves.

“We’re not trying to create a different level of bureaucracy, but we need some help to get a fully triangulated solution, and provide sanity and security for the neighbours.”