West Vancouver files to demolish home allegedly built without permits
Oct. 26 update: Homeowner Philip Garrow says the house was built according to approved plans. Updated article here.
The District of West Vancouver is seeking to demolish a home it alleges was built without the proper permits and mandatory inspections.
Last week, the municipality filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court asking a judge to force Raven and Philip Garrow to tear down the house they built at 733 20th Street within 60 days.
Legal documents claim the pair violated West Vancouver’s zoning and building bylaws by demolishing the existing structure on the property without permission and building a new home that didn’t match plans approved by the district.
“They probably felt they had gone too far to turn back now, so they upped the ante and built the whole house,” said Bob de Wit, the CEO of the Vancouver Homebuilders’ Association. “I think they gambled wrong, so I expect the city will probably tear it down.”
On Oct. 30, 2013, Philip Garrow applied for a permit to renovate the existing one-storey home and to add a garage.
Early the following year, officials received a complaint that demolition had begun on the property even though officials had not completed their review of the application.
On Feb. 27, 2014, the district granted the permit, allowing renovations only to the interior of the existing home and the construction of a garage. The district says it did not authorize the removal of the original home or its foundations.
West Vancouver regulations require homes have a setback of at least 7.6 metres for the front yard and 9.1 metres for the rear yard. The existing home did not meet these requirements, but was exempt because it was built before the current bylaw was enacted.
The municipality says it told the owners to not undertake any structural work on the home because the renovations would make it subject to current regulations, which it would not meet.
According to the petition, however, a March 10 inspection by city engineers revealed that at least 75 per cent of the original dwelling had been demolished and all the foundations had been removed.
The work was done, the district claims, without a demolition permit or plans and approval for the structures that would take the existing structure’s place.
The Garrows then submitted new building plans twice before being granted a permit.
On March 27, 2014, however, city staff inspecting the property found that “the new dwelling has not been built in accordance with the zoning bylaw or the approved building permit, in that the foundations encroach into the required setbacks.”
Staff refused to conduct any further inspections that would allow the work to continue, but on April 4, found that a new building had been constructed anyway.
In the petition, the district said the new structure encroaches even further on the required setbacks than the original home did.
If the homeowners don’t tear down the house within 60 days, the municipality is seeking permission to demolish it itself with the bill paid by the homeowners or added to their taxes.
The property was most recently assessed at just under $3 million.
The Garrows haven’t filed a response to the district’s demolition petition, but Philip Garrow told North Shore News the house is legal and complies with the building permit issued in 2014.
“The house, as it was constructed, has been signed off by every type of engineer…and all of the required and requisite schedules that are needed for a house to confirm that it has been built safely and built according to code are on file,” he said. “So any suggestion that the house is somehow deficient or unsafe or built incorrectly is just not a tenable position.”
In the interview, Garrow indicated the homeowners intend to file their own petition seeking a declaration that the home is legal.
CTV News was unable to reach the homeowners.
Residents in the area say they are glad to see the bylaw being enforced
“I haven’t talked to one person that doesn’t know about this house,” said Sandy Dey, who lives nearby.
“I think you have to set a precedent because people are out there doing what they want because it is difficult to build. It’s not an easy job, but you have to have rules.”
Other structures have also been built without a permit, the district claims.
The municipality also wants the court to ban anyone from living in the home until it’s torn down and for the Garrows to be barred from conducting any future building or development on the property without proper licensing.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson