The owner of North Cowichan’s Sam’s Auto said he’s “very stressed” after he was served with a court order last week from the municipality demanding he bring the property up to code and conform to local bylaws.
It’s been almost a year since North Cowichan ordered the automotive business, located on the corner of Somenos Road and Highway 18, be closed and illegal renovations and upgrades the owner, Amar Rashead, had completed to buildings on the property be dismantled.
The deadline for the closure of the business and the work on the property’s building passed without the required work being done or a visit from bylaw officers, and Sam’s Auto has stayed in operation since then.
The delivery of the latest court order has left Rashead perplexed.
“I don’t know why they never came back all through the year, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do now,” he said.
“I’m very stressed out. The municipality doesn’t care how much money I have invested in this property, and I have a family to feed. I came from Syria with my family years ago for a better life here, but this is no better than the dictatorship that we left behind.”
But a statement from North Cowichan said the file has not been inactive over the past year and a “number of steps” have been taken towards closing the auto repair shop and bringing the property up to code, but didn’t specify what those steps were.
The statement said the municipality is limited as to what it can say at this time as the matter is currently before the courts.
“This will continue to be an active enforcement file until the use of this property is brought into conformance with current zoning, and an approved use (of the site) has been established,” the release said.
Last year, Rashead had been attempting to fix a number of issues on the half-acre property that the municipality had wanted dealt with as he worked towards his plan to tear down the aging two-door garage and replace it with a new four-door garage for his auto inspection and repair business, with living space above.
He had invested $70,000 in his property to remove underground gas storage tanks that were left from when the site housed a gas station, consolidate the two properties on the site to make it easier for rezoning for his new garage, and renovate buildings on the property.
But ongoing bylaw violations, the fact that the site is considered too small for Rashead’s plans and other issues led to the municipality rejecting his application to change the zoning on the property last year, and the decision to hand him the order to shut down operations and dismantle his renovations.