Courtenay council is giving an ultimatum to the owner of problem property: board up or demolish the house, or pay the city for carrying out the work.
Amandio Santos has been renting rooms at the house at 1655 20th St. — which police raided in March after receiving numerous complaints from neighbours. Comox Valley RCMP recovered a firearm, ammunition and what was suspected to be controlled substances.
The city has longstanding issues with Santos about bylaw enforcement at the property, specifically around the health and safety of occupants. The building was intended to be a single family unit, but Santos converted it to boarding suites. The city informed him of safety issues, and told him to post a No Occupancy notice on the house. A letter also said to board it up and bring it up to code. These requirements have not been satisfied, director of development services Ian Buck said at the June 21 council meeting.
He notes the chimney was being removed, though a building permit had not been issued — which prompted another letter May 13, requesting the site be secured in line with city bylaws and provincial building regulations because it was becoming a demolition site. Again, no action has been taken.
“We seem to have an unwilling property owner,” Buck said.
Trevor Sweeney, manager of building and administrative services, said the house is in a “general state of disrepair,” the biggest issues being fire separations for different units.
To access the house, Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said a hole would need to be cut in a wall — which would be a first for the department.
“Our biggest concerns were needles, conditions, health hazards,” Bardonnex said. “It’s quite a danger for first responders to enter the building.”
Under the Community Charter, council is authorized to issue a remedial action requirement. Council approved a staff recommendation to give Santos 30 days to board up the house to prevent entry and occupancy, and bring it up to the city’s building bylaw and provincial building regulations. Another option is to demolish and remove the building and its contents. Relocating the house is not an option. If Santos fails to comply, he will need to pay the city for remedial measures, which will become part of the taxes on the property if he doesn’t pay by Dec. 31. The city also has an option to sell the property, recoup fees and return the remainder to Santos.
Coun. Doug Hillian said issues with the house have been a “huge drain on neighbours,” as well as city staff and first responders.
“This has been burden on the neighbourhood far too long,” Mayor Bob Wells said. “We’ve been inundated with messages from neighbours. This is a very significant, very serious situation.”
Santos is also in a legal battle with the Comox Valley Regional District about several problem rental properties.