Numerous complaints have come into city hall about the “unsightly and unsafe” conditions of the fire-damaged house on Griffin Drive. (Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress)

Numerous complaints have come into city hall about the “unsightly and unsafe” conditions of the fire-damaged house on Griffin Drive. (Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress)

UPDATE: Chilliwack council orders demolition of ‘hazardous’ fire-damaged house

Owner who’s been living in a small shed since the fire is ‘unable’ to undertake the work

What remains of a fire-damaged house on Griffin Drive will have to be demolished within 30 days after a vote at city hall Tuesday.

Council approved the staff recommendation for a remediation order which will require the registered owner to fence and demolish the “hazardous” and “unclean” property, which council has the authority to do under Section 72 of the Community Charter.

Coun. Sue Knott stepped out of council chambers before the council vote to avoid any conflict, saying she had once owned the property in question.

Coun. Harv Westeringh said he had a chance to go by the property and called it a “disgrace” and looks forward to seeing a “hazardous area made safe again.”

Coun. Jeff Shields noted he had some sympathy for the owner, who was under insured, but said in no way should the burden of that hardship be on the neighbourhood, and he supported the direction council was taking.

Coun. Bud Mercer said he was worried about the property owner’s “state of mind” with winter approaching given that he’s been living in the small shed on the property. He was told that staff had approached him with options available to him for help from local social service and community agencies.

The owner had reportedly been in the shed for some or all of the time since the Aug. 4, 2020 fire that extensively damaged the house, according to the staff report.

Staff have tried to bring him into compliance but was told by the individual that since fencing and demolition won’t be covered by insurance, he is “unable and unwilling” to complete the work.

Numerous complaints had come in about the “unsightly and unsafe” conditions of the house, and the use of the shed as a residence in the single-family neighbourhood near Sardis Park.

“Bylaw Enforcement staff considers the property to be so dilapidated, unsightly and unclean so as to be offensive to the community,” according to city documents, and the assistant fire chief considers the property to be “hazardous and unsafe.”

Despite attempts by city staff to have the owner address several deficiencies, the owner has failed to comply, the report says.

Since council approved the demolition, the registered property owner will legally be given the chance to make their case for being granted extra time to either complete the work, or have council reconsider the remediation order.

“It has been determined from the bylaw inspections that overgrown bushes, weeds and tall grass along with the collection of garbage and debris, are now attracting and providing a haven for vermin, rats and other pests, which are causing considerable concern to the health and safety of those living in the neighbourhood,” the staff report states.

The assistant fire chief also said the building is “a fire and life safety hazard” for both fire department staff, and any trespassers who gain access to it.

About a third of the roof and part of the second floor collapsed into the interior of the home during the house fire. That created a “severe” hazard for anyone who would try to enter the destroyed structure, according to the report.

Since the order was approved on Oct. 20 it means that “Council requires the Owner to: (a) fully enclose the perimeter of the property by erecting a two metre high metal fence no later than 30 days after notice of this resolution is delivered to the Owner; (b) demolish or remove the Building no later than 30 days after notice of this resolution is delivered to the Owner; and, (c) clean up or otherwise deal with the unsightly condition of the property by completing the following, no later than 30 days after notice of this resolution is delivered to the Owner: (i) removal of weeds and tall grass; (ii) removal of all manner of unsightly debris; and, (iii) removal of garbage and debris.

A hazardous materials assessment will be part of it.

If the work is not completed by that deadline, city officials or contractors can enter the property and complete the work. But in the event that the city takes action under Section 4 of this resolution, it can recover the costs from the owner, and interest, in the same manner as municipal taxes, in accordance with sections of the Community Charter.

READ MORE: No injuries in house fire on Griffin Drive

READ MORE: Cigarette blamed for Sardis Park area house fire

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