The owner of a Mission-area five-plex failed in her bid to have city councillors legalize her rental property.
Council, which was unanimous in its rejection of the application, said it was sending the message that it will not tolerate property owners—in this case successive owners—flouting the city’s rules.
“I don’t think we can condone the path that was taken to get here, said Kelowna Coun. Ryan Donn, speaking in favour of a staff recommendation to reject the bid by owner Patricia Seone to have the property rezoned to legitimize the five existing rental units in the building.
The building has been occupied, illegally in the case of three of the units, for more than a decade as the city has repeatedly dealt with complaints and tried to have it brought into compliance.
Seone is the latest owner. Living in Eastern Canada, she bought the property as a retirement investment, said her agent Birthe Decloux of Urban Options.
Council said she “should have done her homework” when buying the property and regardless of what her realtor would have told her, she could have found out all about the property with one call to city hall.
The current zoning only allows for two residential units on the property. Seone, who was not present Monday, wanted to rezone the property to reduce the number of units to four in order to legalize it.
But council said no to the building, on Bluebird Road, just west of the intersection of Bluebird, Lexington and Lakeshore Drive, and pointed to years of contravention, many complaints from neighbours—several before Seone owned the property and two complaints since—and the fact the city took the original owner to court when the five-plex was built. At that point they had it shut down but it was reopened later despite being illegal.
“We all want to see more density,” said Mayor Colin Basran, “But this file has cost the community a lot of money (because of the court case with the former owner and city staff dealing with complaints). “At some point you just have to put up the stop sign.”
The rejection of the rezoning means the property will now have to be reduced to just two rental units.
In addition to the five units, an accessory building on the site, built to be a garage with an upstairs recreation room, is now illegally being used as additional living quarters.
Council said it appeared that over the years, as owners of the property realized it was in contravention of city bylaws, they sold it. Whether the status of the property was revealed to the next buyer or not is not known. What is known is that while Seone bought the property in 2012, she tried to sell it in 2016, advertising it as a five-plex, despite knowing by then it’s status as such was illegal.
That troubled Coun. Brad Sieben.
Decloux said that appeared have been a “knee-jerk” reaction after learning about the legal status of the property.
Coun. Maxine DeHart wondered out loud why Seone did not do something sooner in terms of trying to legalize the property, given she has owned it since 2012.
“That kinda bothers some” said DeHart.
In the end, council voted unanimously to reject the rezoning application.
And while some members of council expressed concern for the tenants currently living in the building—some for as long as six years—Basran noted they must be given two months notice to leave.
City clerk Stephen Fleming said Seone had already agreed that if the rezoning application was not approved, she would start the process to convert the property to two rental units within 30 days.