Council backs city's wish to "make example" out of problem property

Council is deciding to back city staff, in its decision to crack down on a house with illegal rental suites.

The home is on Bluebird Road, just west of Lakeshore and Lexington, and currently has five suites, which is three more than current zoning allows for.

Planning Manager Ryan Smith says over the last couple decades, the city has had to deal with multiple bylaw complaints, and several owners unwilling to comply with the zoning.

"This is one of those files where staff would like to make an example of a property owner, and regardless of whether this property owner did the conversion of the building, or not, themselves, they did buy a building and could have done the research to figure out that it doesn't comply with the bylaws, and could have made some changes to the building to have it comply with the bylaws when they bought it," he said.

"Again, it's not hard to find out this information."

On Monday, council heard a request on behalf of the homeowner, who's trying to get the zoning changed to allow four of the five suites.

But after finding out the owner doesn't even live in Kelowna, Councillor Tracy Gray was skeptical.

"I really feel that we have a disengaged owner that couldn't bother to be here today to answer questions. And to leave it up to their agent - we heard many times 'I cannot speak to that', 'my interpretation is..', this puts you (Birte Decloux) in a really difficult position. So it's unfortunate that the owner chose not to be here today," she said

Decloux is a former City of Kelowna planner who was hired by the client through Decloux's company, Urban Options Planning & Permits, and was brought in to go through the process of getting the majority of the suites legalized.

She was asked why, if the owner bought the home in 2012, did she only bother to look at legalizing the suites nearly five years later.

"She is an absentee landlord. I mean, she has a management firm taking care of things for her locally, however she is far away," she said.

"My assumption, could be correct or could be incorrect, is that things went well, ie there was no red flags for the first few years, in terms of the five units."

The five units are split between a main house and a two-storey building in the backyard.

Decloux says the owner bought it in 2012, and actually lives in Eastern Canada, having hired a local company to manage the home.

Smith says that while the owner can plead ignorance, it was her responsibility to know about the illegal suites back when she bought the property.