Owner fixing up hazardous Lake Cowichan house rather than demolishing it

Owner meets with Lake Cowichan CAO, promises to fix up North Shore Road property and house

This house on North Shore Road has prompted a remediation order from the Town of Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

According to the Town of Lake Cowichan, the owner of a problem house at 127 North Shore Rd. is not ready to see the place torn down yet.

Faced with an order from the town to fix or tear down within 30 days, Daniel Wort, who at present lives in Japan, actually met with town officials, according to Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez.

“He came and met with myself, the building inspector, and the works manager on Nov. 21, Tuesday, and we went over some of the requirments,” Fernandez told councillors at their Nov. 28 regular meeting.

“We impressed upon him about the remediation process. He then promised to send me the next day his schedule for getting a remediator. To this point, I have not heard anything from him. He’s gone back to Japan. But, I understand that work is happening at the property.”

Mayor Ross Forrest then said, “It is. Every time I drive by there, there’s something going on.”

Fernandez told council, “Just one other thing: I believe WorkSafeBC is also on that case.”

Coun. Bob Day asked if Wort left any way to keep in touch with him in Japan and learned that he gave Fernandez an email address.

“Would we deal with a local agent?” Day continued.

Fernandez shook his head.

“I should be dealing with the property owner, not the agent, because the agent is not the legal representative of the owner.”

He also pointed out to councillors that “There will be a private building inspector that will designate that it’s fit for human habitation. It’s not something that we will be doing.”

Coun. Tim McGonigle asked if a building permit was taken out for the improvements and Fernandez said, “There will not be one required.”

The original order came from a meeting Nov. 14, following notification from the Lake Cowichan fire chief that he would not allow his firefighters in the dangerous building again without being accompanied by police.

The extent of the danger was verified recently by the Lake Cowichan fire department, when, on Nov. 6 the firefighters had to attend a fire at the address.

“Despite the fact that BC Hydro had shut off the power to this address, the residence had continued to be inhabited with residents using a kerosene heater that had resulted in a fire that caused a call-in to the fire department,” Fernandez told council, adding, “the residents informed the fire department that a propane heater is also used for heating purposes.”

But even that isn’t all, the CAO told councillors.

“Fire and carbon monoxide poisoning and used syringes pose ever-present dangers to residents and visitors and those having to respond to emergencies at this or adjacent properties. The property also has garbage strewn in and outside the building. Further, there is evidence of holes constructed in the flooring of the building.

“In light of the foregoing and the dangers posed, the fire department has made it clear that it will only respond to fire calls at the address if accompanied by police. We have had written and verbal complaints on the subject property [and council needs to act] if public safety is to be protected,” he said.

“After talks with fire chief Doug Knott, it is clear that the structure is not suitable for human habitation at this time,” Fernandez concluded in his report to council on Nov. 14.

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