‘Passive’ stance taken on home grow-op fixes

Chamber wants remediation enforcement to protect the value of local housing stock

Mission will not be actively involved in ensuring marijuana grow operation homes are remediated, despite requests from local organizations to enact regulations similar to ones used in Chiliwack.

Groups including the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce are concerned that housing values are being eroded when homes are left unrepaired after being identified by the RCMP as having been used for drug operations.

According to the chamber, Mission houses identified as homes used for drug operations are not eligible for financing, mortgage underwriting (such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) or home insurance, unless there is proof of remediation. Currently, that’s the responsibility of the property owner in advance of the sale.

The chamber said property owners looking to unload their houses sell them for reduced value, often in cash transactions, or without voluntarily disclosing the information.

Remediation helps maintain property values, and buyers are drawn to the community. This aids in job creation and strengthens economic growth, said Lesa Lacey from the Canadian Homebuilders Association of the Fraser Valley, who also addressed council alongside Dave Sawatzky, from the chamber’s government affairs committee.

According to chamber executive director Michelle Favero, Chilliwack’s approach is sensible.

Any home deemed a controlled substance property where utilities have been disconnected by a lawful authority and/or unauthorized work has been done on the structure must go through a number of steps to have an occupancy permit reinstated. Those actions include getting a number of inspections completed by qualified people, obtaining permits for all required repairs, and payment of fees (which can be higher than $2,500) and more.

But councillors, responding to a staff report on district involvement with inspection and remediation of pot grows, said passive involvement is the right choice for Mission.

That approach is based on carrying out regular responsibilities such as issuing building permits and administering the Fire Services Act in commercial, industrial and institutional, indicated the report.

It also indicates no “direct involvement with RCMP and no involvement with remediation other than that limited to what is required under the normal building permit process, water supply protection requirements or when life safety, fire or structural hazards exist.”

Staff indicated other approaches suggested would require more staff resources, record keeping, and increased liability.

“Hell will freeze over before I would ever support a reinstatement of PSIT or anything like it,” said Coun. Jenny Stevens, referring to the Public Safety Inspection Team, the heavily criticized initiative which inspected homes using more than 93 kwh/day of electricity and observed to show signs of being a controlled substance property.

PSIT activities – except for those initiated by the RCMP – were halted Jan. 11, 2011 after a review. The bylaw governing PSIT was repealed in early 2013.

“PSIT is a four-letter word in this community,” said Coun. Dave Hensman. “The people in this community want nothing to do with this.”