Demand is building for Coldstream to ease up on homeowners.
A crowd of nearly 30, including contractors, realtors and taxpayers, turned out to protest what many call an abuse of power at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Coldstream has begun withholding building permits from some homeowners unless demands for off-site works or land are met.
“The construction industry is losing jobs and we’re frustrating homeowners,” said Ken Dahlen, owner of Keith Construction.
Dahlen has a client on Kidston Road who applied for a standard building permit and the district decided the owner wouldn’t receive the permit unless they were willing to sell two-thirds of the land for a multi-use path project.
So frustrated by the situation, the homeowner has given up on building a garage.
“I believe what they’re doing in unlawful, it’s unsupported by the local government act,” said the homeowner Judy Paterson, who has long been fighting the demands she calls “morally and ethically wrong.”
Although she has given up her own project, Paterson says she isn’t done fighting the injustices and she urges citizens not to let their local governments push them around.
Coldstream admits it has been uncommon practice up until now to make such demands that are typically only placed on large developments
“It’s a pre-existing ability that was never applied,” said Coun. Doug Dirk of the bylaw that has existed since 2008.
A similar bylaw was in place prior to 2008, but it only allowed the district to demand off-site works on building permits for multi-family dwellings of five or more units. That in essence, kept single units (such as the Paterson’s) in exemption.
The district asserts that the demands now being made are necessary in order to upgrade infrastructure and complete projects.
“It’s happening everywhere because people need sewer and wider roads,” said Coun. Gyula Kiss, adding that he recalls giving up his own land to the district years ago for sewer upgrades.
Some Okanagan municipalities, such as Kelowna, maintain that it is unfair practice and they will not put such demands on single-unit homeowners. But others, including Vernon, have been known to force homeowners to sell a portion of their land or pay for road upgrades.
Following the public outcry, Coldstream says the bylaw is under review.
“We have to move as quick as possible with review of this bylaw. We have a serious public relations nightmare,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane.
As an interim solution, Coldstream changed its bylaw Tuesday to initiate a trigger point at which such off-site work or land can be required. Now, demands can only be made on projects worth $50,000 or more.
“Yes, it’s a good thing, but I do not feel that $50,000 is enough,” said local homeowner Donna Anderson. “Please review it and please don’t do this to the District of Coldstream. People can’t afford this.
Carla Dahlen, with Century 21, questioned what realtors should tell people looking to purchase a home in Coldstream.
“Get a mortgage for X number of dollars but be expected to maybe pay another $20,000 (if you want to upgrade or expand) for curbs, gutters, we don’t know,” said Dahlen, suggesting Coldstream’s threshold be set at $500,000 as a band-aid until the bylaw is fixed.
The situation has left a sour taste in many residents’ mouths.
“The sideshow I’ve seen here, I’m not so sure I want to spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars on my place,” said Alan Jacura, who had been considering upgrading his home.
Mayor Jim Garlick says demands will not be placed on every building permit, just those where services are lacking or projects are on the books.
“Where else it would happen is probably on my road, Coldstream Creek Road all the way to Cosens Bay because it’s not wide enough there.”
In the Kidston Road case, Coldstream’s defense is that it is acting for the greater good of the community.
“We received a petition from residents of Long Lake Estates to develop a safe walking trail for them and their children,” said Coun. Maria Besso.