The owner of a vacant lot in Capilano Highlands that has been deemed a hazard and nuisance to the community has been given one month to improve the condition of the property or else the municipality will do it for him.
District of North Vancouver council voted unanimously on July 20 to order the owner of the property at 3560 Highland Blvd. to fill the large excavation on the vacant lot with backfill, as well as grade and restore the site to a safe and tidy condition.
The owner has until Aug. 21 to make the required improvements. If he doesn’t, the district has been authorized to undertake the work itself and bill the owner later by adding the amount to his property taxes.
Council also voted to declare the property as being “in a hazardous condition and to be a nuisance,” according to the recommendation presented to council by district staff.
“It’s been this way for an extended period of time,” said Dan Milburn, the district’s director of planning, in a presentation to council.
The house on the lot was partially demolished without a permit in July 2015. The owner, who is also a developer with an excavation and demolition company, used the property to store excavated materials and construction debris from unknown demolition sites, according to a staff report.
Due to the unsightly state of the property, as well as complaints from neighbours, staff took the unusual step of issuing a demolition permit without having a building permit in place back in 2016, according to the report.
Since then, the owner has been issued a building permit for a new house, but allowed it to lapse without commencing construction. A new application for a building permit was submitted in 2018 but was incomplete and therefore denied.
“It has been a significant imposition on the neighbourhood for quite some time,” said Coun. Jim Hanson.
According to staff, the vacant property has been the subject of numerous complaints from neighbours who cited as concerns inadequate fencing around the site, dumping of construction debris and garbage, and a deep excavation that is often filled with water.
Harnek Hothi, the property owner, told council that the recommendation to backfill the excavation would be time-consuming and expensive, and possibly “not a good idea to fill it up now” as he claimed to have submitted documentation for another building permit and was hoping to hear back soon.
Hothi also said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had made working on the site more difficult this year.
“It’s been a hamper to our work. It’s been causing delays. At one point everything was just completely shutdown,” said Hothi.
But Mayor Mike Little wasn’t having it, noting the site had been an ongoing issue for the past five years.
“This isn’t a recent thing because of delays in the spring. This is something that the district has been trying to get active participation in the solution for a very long period of time. The neighbours are absolutely infuriated by the situation,” said Little. "I haven’t seen active participation on behalf of the homeowner in this matter – I’ve seen resistance, delay, the site being used to store construction equipment for other projects and other properties, and so my view is that staff have exhausted the good intentions side of things and the owner no longer gets the benefit of the doubt and we proceed by taking this kind of remedial action on the property.”