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City seeks to streamline secondary suite permit fees; creates water meter obstruction penalties

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
February 7th, 2020

A quest for fairness in the secondary suite sector has the city set to streamline a set of building and fees and charges bylaws.

City council has passed third reading on building permit fees for secondary suites, notice on title fees and the wording regarding refunds of application fees.

Currently, the city creates its building permit fees for renovations to create a secondary suite based on the construction costs declared by the owner or builder.

“It is very difficult to verify these declarations pre- and post-construction,” read a city Development Services staff report on the matter.

It was noted that fees paid could often fall well below the cost to provide the service  — plan review, multiple inspections, correspondence with the applicant and administration — and were inconsistent in terms of fairness.

It was determined that a flat fee of $500 should be implemented for the permit.

As well, the fee to remove a notice on title was far higher ($1,000) than the actual amount of staff time invested (no more than $300 plus two hours staff time).

It was proposed to reduce the cost to remove notices on title to $500 “to be more reflective of actual costs and not to create a disincentive for people to correct outstanding issues and have a notice on title removed.”

Notices on title are used to disclose the status of deficiencies and code violations to prospective purchasers or other people involved with a property.

Several changes were proposed to the Fees and Charges Bylaw for refunds of application fees. It was felt the existing wording made it unclear when and how to refund fees if a person cancelled an application after paying, but before a permit is issued or work begins.

“Currently, the bylaw prescribes the same refund policy for all Development Services fees, including building and development permits: 50% of the application fee listed shall be refunded if the application is withdrawn prior to initially proceeding to the decision making authority,” read the staff report.

It was determined that implementation of the clause was “challenging and inconsistent,” owing to the fact the time city staff incurred on the file and costs incurred by the city varied considerably.

In viewing other cities’ refund clauses a series of regulations regarding flat fees with a pro-rated refund amount stated, depending on the stage of the work at hand, was proposed.

City to penalize those who obstruct water meter installations

People who attempt to obstruct access for the purpose of installation of a water meter will now suffer the wrath of city administration.

An amendment to the Bylaw Notice Enforcement bylaw has established provision for a penalty if a property owner obstructs access to the installation of a water meter.

The amendment supports the ongoing effort by the city to place water meters on Nelson homes, but there has been some resistance by Nelsonites to the project, explained city deputy corporate officer Gabriel Bouvet-Boisclair in his report to council on Monday night during the regular council business meeting.

“Amending the Bylaw Notice Enforcement bylaw to allow the city to assess a penalty to those that interfere with the installation of a water meter will serve as a deterrent to those that are creating difficulties for Public Works staff in installing the required water meters,” he said.

No negative impact has been identified, Bouvet-Boisclair added.

The city has been working to install water meters in all industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) facilities.

“A water meter is required in all ICI businesses serviced by the water utility as it accurately measures water consumption,” noted Bouvet-Boisclair.

Bouvet-Boisclair explained that the data collected by the installed water meters could be employed to detect leaks and encourage water conservation, which has seen over a 20 per cent reduction in the last five years.

That reduction is in part due to ongoing work on the city’s water delivery system. Per-capita usage is dropping in Nelson and there is a continued decline in thetotal overall water usage, as well as a drop in the average winter usage.

At present, the city is undergoing the third (final) phase of the ICI water meter installations.

Five years ago the city enacted legislation to empower the municipality with the right to install a water meter, noting that it had the right to “require that a property install a water meter in accordance with this bylaw” and in 2008 it was determined that the city reserved “the right to meter any water service at its sole discretion.”

Nine years ago the city brought forth legislation to penalize people who obstruct access to the city for inspecting, maintaining, repairing, replacing and reading the water meter. “However, there is no enforcement provision with regard to those that obstruct access to the city for installing a water meter,” Bouvet-Boisclair noted.

The penalty for obstructing would be set at $200 (with an early payment penalty of $150).

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