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Council runs out of patience with hoarder house in Chillwack

Owner had been given 30 days to finally clean up the property, before city crews were to come in do the job

It was a mess that grew into a neighbourhood nuisance.

"It's time to get 'er done," Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz told the owner of a Mayfair Avenue home in Chilliwack.

The elderly home owner, whose son suffers from mental illness, had been given 30 days to finally clean up the property, before city crews were to come in and complete the job.

That day came and went and unfortunately nothing was done before the month-long deadline had passed, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

"I'm not sure council has a choice because nothing has been done."

Photos of the residence showed a broken front window, tarped section of a sideyard, accumulated garbage bags, vehicles, and overgrown weeds.

Owner Pauline Jollymour stood up in council chambers Tuesday night and asked council for more time.

"It's very hard for me because I'm over 90," she said. "I do want to clean it up and I want to do the right thing. I do want to.

"But as long as he is against it, it makes things very difficult," she said referring to her son, who she says has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). "It's hard to move ahead."

A cleanup order by council means the costs to remediate the property will be added to the owner's property taxes.

The mayor tried to reason with the owner.

"When someone suffers from OCD, or what some people call hoarding, I know it's difficult."

But the city doesn't have jurisdiction to help in mental health issues, she said, which is more the role of Fraser Health.

"In the meantime we have to look after neighbourhood concerns here."

It's been called a "nuisance" and a "hazard" with allegations of rats and untouched trash.

"Your neighbours are very unsettled. They were called busybodies but they have been kind and patient. I've run out of patience. If you want to put the blame on your son, you may do do."

The mayor called the state of the house and property "disgusting" and "very filthy," adding the owner had to take it seriously and tell her son the crews would be coming for the cleanup.

"I wish there was another way, but he has shown callous disregard for the neighbours."

The owner seemed resigned at the end of it.

"It's up to you what you want to do with me," she said.

"This may be a blessing in disguise," the mayor told her. "This way you have no say. Council takes the responsibility. Your son has no other option."

Gaetz said she looked forward to the day when it was all done, and that more time probably wouldn't help. The neighbours were fed up and can't wait any more.

"I hope this helps you."

The owner persisted.

"All I ask is for more time."

But it was too late for a reprieve.

"That won't do anything. It would just be prolonging the inevitable. Let's get 'er done. Let's get 'er done."

"I'm very sad," said the homeowner.

"We're all sad," said the mayor. "This doesn't give us any joy."

Gaetz reassured her when it comes to mental health issues, it's not a case of her failing as a mother.

Coun. Stewart McLean told her he understood as someone with counselling experience.

"I want you to know I have empathy for your situation."

Coun. Jason Lum called it the "hardest" vote he'd be taking that night and said he was reluctantly voting in favour of the cleanup order.

"When I think about Mrs. Jollymore standing up here, she could be anyone's mother or grandmother," adding that it's sad this whole situation "comes to rest at the feet of city government."

"I hope the neighbourhood watches and thinks about it more compassionately as well."

City staffer Garrett Schipper escorted the elderly resident from council chambers, gingerly holding her elbow.

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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