North Vancouver City illegal suite neighbour fears for safety

City council gets backlash from residents after court action flip-flop

AN Ottawa Gardens resident came to City of North Vancouver council Monday night to say she fears for her personal safety living next to an illegal fourplex that council decided last week not to close with a court order.

Louise Murphy said disputes with her neighbours "came to a head" over parking spaces in 2010, when she had a guest with mobility problems. After asking them to leave spaces in front of her house free, she said, "they responded very aggressively, as did (landlord) Mr. Wallner. I had to threaten to call the police twice to get him out of the house."

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Murphy told council she had had to "deal with bullying and harassment with the neighbours and Mr. Wallner."

"I feel threatened. I'm in a hostile environment."

The city has been aware of two illegal suites in Arnold Wallner's duplex for many years. But last week, council turned down a request by staff to seek a court order to remove them. Coun. Rod Clark swung the 4-3 vote after changing his mind and arguing the city should consider secondary suites in duplexes.

Murphy's neighbour, Shelly Windover, told council she had no problem with secondary suites in principle.

"Secondary suites allow first-time buyers to secure mortgages based on rental income, they house international students, young adult children and elderly parents," she said. "I do not dispute the value of these suites in our city or in our neighbourhood. Policy states these suites are allowed in single-family dwellings where the landlord is resident. Secondary suites are not permitted in duplexes. The owner of 261-263 (West Sixth) is not resident. He lives in British Properties. His interest in that property is purely financial. . . . He's had over 12 years to comply with city bylaws. It should be obvious to everyone here that he has not wanted to open his doors to inspection because his property won't meet building codes."

Another of Murphy's neighbours, David Wedge, said he had witnessed her being verbally abused in "vile and obscene" fashion by Wallner's tenants during their parking disputes.

In a sharply worded address to council, Wedge said, "the city can certainly reduce its costs by closing the bylaw enforcement office as council has already emasculated any credibility that bylaw officers have to the public. No city inspection has ever been achieved."

Last to the microphone was David Lebeter, another Ottawa Gardens resident. "I wanted to speak in support of Louise Murphy," he said. "I can assure you that on two separate occasions she called me at home - I live on the same block - because she was afraid for her personal safety. That's the first time in my 52 years that anyone has ever called me about their personal safety."

Lebeter said he also lived next to two illegal suites and had no complaints with them.

"I don't complain about them because the landlords take care of the tenants. They're good tenants, they contribute to the neighbourhood. They participate, they don't cause any inconvenience . . . There is value in secondary suites. They do allow people to secure mortgages. They do provide low-rental housing for people on the North Shore. But I do think it was an inappropriate decision made last week."

balldritt@nsnews.com

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