City withholding building permit for developer who didn’t deal with asbestos

City issued a demolition permit for a house at 242 Van Horne St., with the stipulation that the asbestos insulation be removed safely first.

The city is withholding the building permit for a duplex planned for this property on Van Horne Street after the developer tore it down without first safely removing asbestos insulation.

The city is withholding the building permit for a duplex planned for this property on Van Horne Street after the developer tore it down without first safely removing asbestos insulation.

An incident where a developer went ahead with tearing down a house without first safely removing asbestos insulation has the City of Penticton looking at how to deal with offenders.

“This may lead into a non-return of their security deposit,” said Ken Kunka, the city’s building and permitting manager. The city is also withholding the building permit for the duplex planned for the site, until the problem is resolved.

The city issued a demolition permit to Singla Bros. for a house at 242 Van Horne St., with the stipulation that the asbestos insulation be removed safely first.

That didn’t happen, and Worksafe B.C. became involved. According to their inspection report, Singla Bros. didn’t follow appropriate safety protocols and work was stopped on the site until the cleanup was finished.

Kunka said he’s waiting for final confirmation from Worksafe that they have dealt with what they needed to do on site before proceeding with the city’s point of view.

Kunka said because the clean up needed to be done, the city didn’t post a stop work order. The developer couldn’t do anything new on the property.

“Again, we’re not going to release any new building permits until we know it is dealt with,” said Kunka.

According to the Worksafe report, the developer could potentially be issued both administrative fines and a citation under the Occupational Health and Safety act.

Those Worksafe fines could range into the thousands of dollars, but at present the city only has a financial penalty of not returning the $500 security deposit.

“We need to address things like this to have more of a penalty,” said Kunka. “If it was a continuous offender, we could look at suspending their business license, which would not allow them to take permits out anymore. That would kind of be a worst case scenario for any contractor.”

This is the second incident in the past two years to cause concern, according to Kunka. The other, unconnected incident involved a contractor trying to circumvent dumping regulations, which also drew the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen in as managers of the Campbell Mountain Landfill.

“This case and the other case have led us to talk with the RDOS a bit more and Worksafe a bit more,” said Kunka, explaining they are working with the RDOS to ensure dumping and disposal conditions are being met. “We’ve tightened up our protocols to try to ensure this doesn’t happen.”

Kunka said most of these rules are developed for people that don’t want to comply, rather than the majority that do.

“Do we change all our rules for a very small percentage while everyone else is complying? Sometimes it is a hard call to make to change and add more and more fees,” said Kunka.

“We are definitely going to look at the fine structure again as we are working on our building bylaw and our processes.”

Kunka said one step they plan to take is to require clearance letters before they fully issue the demolition permit.

“That is to certify that if they had any cleaning up to do, they would have to prove it on paper,” said Kunka, adding that most developers were already providing assurances. “It wasn’t a strict rule that we had, but now since these two cases, we are going to make sure we do from now on.”