Cherry Lane towers owners feel shut down by city

Some unit owners in Cherry Lane towers are concerned they are under attack for roll shutters installed on their balconies.

Some unit owners in Cherry Lane towers are concerned they are under attack by city staff who are questioning the roll shutters and retractable sunscreens installed on their balconies.

It’s not a new problem. Ken Kunka, Penticton’s building and permitting manager, said he has been trying to work with the building’s strata council for three years.

“This all started in 2011. The fire department and the building department realized there could be safety concerns with the installation of these roll shutters and sunscreens,” said Kunka. “The strata was notified of the city’s concern and we have been trying to work with them ever since.”

Some of the shutters have been in place for a decade and owners say they have been safe for all that time, permit or not. They are concerned about a letter giving them until Oct. 4 to comply with inspections to ensure the shutters meet safety regulations.

“In 2003, when owners chose to explore the idea of these roll shutters, the city administration then in place advised that building permits were not required for retractable installations and had no interest,” writes Brian Remus in a letter to the editor.

“Our main goal is to just ensure the safety of the people in the building,” said Wayne Williams, Penticton’s fire chief.

“The first concern for us was the exhausting of the fireplaces in the balconies,” said Williams. “Once they enclose the balcony, if a fire were to start, there is no indication to let them know there is a fire on the balcony, and by the time it spread and came into the unit, the sprinkler system might not be able to handle it.”

There is also concern about the electrical systems used to open and close many of the roll shutters. Kunka said they have no way of knowing whether they were installed by a qualified electrician.

“A lot of those were done by the roll shutter installer. There is a chance something could go wrong,” said Kunka. “The owners  I have dealt with have had an electrician go by and make sure they were safe.”

Kunka said the owners will not be charged for a safety permit.

“We contemplated whether we would go with minimum permit fees, but my director decided that, to be able to work with the strata and the unit owners that we would develop a tracking fee at no cost,” he said. “If someone was to change that later on down the road, we would know what was going on, like we would have if people had come in for permits originally.

“We are working on solutions. We are just here to make sure people are safe.”