West Van withholds building permit; accuses owner of asking forgiveness instead of permission

Applicant "playing us for fools," says councillor

A homeowner’s bid to overturn a year-long stop-work order hit a wall Feb. 10 as West Vancouver councillors noted the difference between what was allowed on a waterfront property and what got built.

The district approved a two-storey house on a rectangular site at 3742 Marine Dr. in 2016, as well as subsequent variances.

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But during a site inspection, district staff noted an extension to the building and roof, a wing-wall and retaining walls that hadn’t been approved.

The owner is asking for four new variances.

“If we do approve this, we’re just asking for other people to sin and beg forgiveness later,” said Coun. Craig Cameron.

Requested changes include shrinking the side yard setbacks by a total of nine metres and increasing site coverage from 42 to 58 per cent.

“We thought the changes we made to the exterior of the house were minor and did not require staff approval,” Pinnacle International senior project manager Carlo Meola wrote in a letter to council. “I am asking that you excuse my lack of judgment in not asking staff before I made the changes that I am now proposing.”

Stuck between waterfront bedrock and Marine Drive, the property is 55 metres wide and 8.5 metres deep at its narrowest point.

Explaining the lot was likely created prior to the construction of Marine Drive, West Vancouver director of planning Jim Bailey told council that if the owner had asked for those exceptions in advance they would have got what they asked for.

“If you’re looking for a pound of flesh I think the fact that they’ve been inactive ... there’s a measure of punishment in that,” he said.

Cameron, however, was concerned that granting the variances would encourage other homeowners to push the envelope.

“We need to be flexible, but this is playing us for fools,” he said.

While questioning Meola as well as landscape architect Peter Kreuk, Coun. Nora Gambioli asked why a patio was built without permits, “seemingly intentionally.”

“The concrete patio was an existing slab, that’s where the existing garage used to sit,” Meola told her.

Cameron took issue with that explanation.

“This wasn’t an existing slab. This is a brand new slab,” Cameron said.

“The walls were existing,” Meola replied. “The slab was existing but it collapsed.”

Cameron seemed unimpressed with that reasoning.

“At some point in the construction there was an audible that was called and you decided, ‘Screw it, let’s just pour this,’” he said.

“That is a newly poured slab,” Kreuk clarified. The idea was to position the slab beneath terraced landscaping on the steeply sloping property, Kreuk told council.

Encouraging her colleagues to support the variances, Mayor Mary-Ann Booth suggested one year spent in development purgatory is “quite a penalty.”

The year-long stop-work order isn’t necessarily the district’s fault, Bailey said.

While he didn’t realize it had been a year, Bailey noted that variance permits often involve back-and-forth between the applicant and the municipality.

Even so, denying the permit will waste council’s, staff’s, and the neighbourhood’s time, according to Booth.

“Personally, I don’t want to see a bunch of concrete being jackhammered and put in a landfill,” the mayor said.

Jackhammering would be entirely appropriate, Coun. Bill Soprovich countered.

“They can jackhammer out the concrete and put in a slope-down landscape. That would satisfy me,” Soprovich said. “I can’t understand why you have professional men going against the bylaw.”

Coun. Peter Lambur noted that the homeowner has already paid permit fees for each variance.

“I think this is just adding more unnecessary work on top of unnecessary work,” Lambur said.

Lambur also suggested deterrence may not be required.

“I think the applicant knows what they have done,” Lambur said.

The variances probably should have been included in the first application, said Coun. Sharon Thompson.

While the owner is guilty of a misstep, Thompson suggested council approve the application.

“We want you to be able to enjoy your home,” she said.

Council voted 4-3 to defer approving the variance permit while staff explore deterrents. Cameron, Soprovich, Gambioli, and Coun. Marcus Wong supported the motion while Booth, Thompson and Lambur opposed it.


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