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District of West Vancouver slaps notice on title for four homes

Properties had work done without permits, district alleges
Notice on title web
A photo captured by District of West Vancouver staff on Dec. 17, 2021, purports to show construction that had continued in defiance of a stop-work order on the renovation of a townhouse unit in West Royal Towers.

District of West Vancouver council is slapping notice on title for a series of properties after, they allege, the owners carried out work without permits and in defiance of stop-work orders.

Council voted unanimously Monday evening (Jan. 24) to take action against the owners of four homes after giving the owners an opportunity to plead their case.

A notice on title is intended to give clear warning to a potential buyer that property carries baggage that may become a liability.

“In future, it may not be clear to prospective purchasers or owners that the addition was not built in compliance with the building bylaw, and a prospective purchaser owner may erroneously conclude that the district permitted or now tolerates the construction,” said Jim Bailey, the district's director of planning.

In March last year, a district inspector noticed an unpermitted second storey being added to the garage of a home at 3153 Travers Ave. in West Bay. Despite putting multiple stop-work orders on the site, staff noted over 15 visits that construction continued to proceed, the district’s report states.

“No occupancy permits have been or will be issued for the unlawful construction. The work has not been inspected and may have latent defects that may include potential lack of compliance with the British Columbia Building Code,” Bailey said.

According to staff, the owner of the property was invited to speak to council before they made their decision but the owner wrote back saying they would strongly oppose any move to put notice on title, "especially these incorrect unsubstantiated allegations." They added they would need at least six weeks to review any documents the district was relying on in their assertions about the work.

Council also voted to take action on 348 Taylor Way. The owner of that townhouse unit, at the base of West Royal Towers, is already suing the district to have a stop-work order from 2020 lifted.

The owner did receive a building permit; however, the work went well beyond the scope of the permit, including drilling holes into the building’s slab, which is expressly forbidden in the strata’s bylaw, said district solicitor Elizabeth Anderson.

When district executed an entry warrant on the property on Dec. 17, they found work had still continued in defiance of stop-work orders. One of the holes in the townhouse slab had been filled with concrete and the others had been filed with foam, Anderson said, presenting photos of the work to council.

Owner Philip Garrow, though, insisted his application did include holes and alleged district staff did not have the independence or qualifications necessary to judge his renovation.

“To suggest, as the district has, that the work was somehow unauthorized is quite frankly, ludicrous. No. 1, it defies any logic. No. 2, it defies even the most even the smallest level of common sense but is indicative of a pattern of behaviour,” he told council.

Garrow is the owner of two other condos within West Royal Towers, units 3D and 6D, which will also have notice on title to warn prospective buyers of unpermitted work, including electrical and new walls as well as plumbing that had not been inspected. In those cases, the district rejected the building permit application because the renovations did not have the strata’s approval, according to staff.

Garrow insisted the work was superficial and did not require permits. He also accused council of bias against him, and district staff of breach of trust.

“Zero independent evidence. Zero actual evidence that would support the notion that the work that has been done is contrary to or requires a permit to be applied for,” he said, while addressing council at Monday's meeting.

Circumspect council members made few comments before the votes were passed, although Coun. Nora Gambioli spoke up in defence of the district’s staff members.

Coun. Bill Soprovich defended council's process in putting notices on title.

“I think that we exercise a very open, democratic process in listening to Mr. Garrow and have given him ample time,” he said. “I always draw down to one statement: ‘You can have your say, but not your way.’”