The builder who forged a homeowner’s signature to get the green light for a variance needed to build a home on Lakeview Cove Road in West Kelowna is at the centre of an RCMP investigation.
Capital News reported last week James Zeleznik, general manager of Jazel Homes, forged Ray Kohut’s signature on a letter dated March 20, which indicated approval for a building height variance on a neighbouring lot.
West Kelowna council voted in favour of that variance April 8. According to Nancy Henderson, general manager of development services, staff’s recommendation to issue the variance was strongly influenced by Kohut’s letter of support.
Kohut discovered his signature had been forged earlier this month, after returning from a trip out of country.
“I was pretty upset, of course,” said Kohut, who is currently in Tanzania.
In a statement, Zeleznik said he assumed Kohut would have replied to a series of e-mails if he had any further comments or concerns about the variance.
But Kohut said that was the wrong assumption to make, adding he never indicated support for the variance through e-mail correspondence with Zeleznik.
Instead, Kohut sent one e-mail March 20, asking if the variance would allow the house next door to tower over his. Zeleznik sent several more e-mails and Kohut didn’t reply.
“I thought it was very clear, that the tone of my e-mail was: ‘No,'” said Kohut.
Kohut was outraged when he initially saw what was being built next to his house; however, he sent the district a letter May 11, which reluctantly suggested the variance should be left in place to prevent an eye sore and lost jobs in the community.
But Kohut has since changed his mind.
“I think they should tear it down.
“At the end of the day, what I need to look at is the value of my property.”
If the District of West Kelowna decides to approve the variance once again, Kohut predicts his property value will drop significantly.
Over the past couple of weeks, he said he has tested the market to see if anyone is interested in purchasing his home.
“The first people I offered it to came back and said, ‘No.’
“The only reason was because of the house that’s being built next to me.”
Since discovering fraud was committed, West Kelowna council has opted to reconsider the variance request that was initially approved April 8. That decision has delayed construction.
According to a letter sent to the district May 12, Robert and Patricia Sklar were expecting to move into the home being constructed at the end of August.
The letter, written by the Saskatchewan couple, indicates reconsideration of the variance has affected them in several ways.
“Moving to West Kelowna for our retirement was something we had been looking forward to for a very long time,” wrote the Sklars.
“Building our retirement home with a view of the vineyards, lake and mountains unique to Kelowna was our dream, which has now turned into an unbelievable nightmare over the last few months.”
The couple added between the lot cost, the builder’s down payment and the outstanding costs of the build-to-date, they have invested $450,000 in the property.
They also fear further delays may prevent them from selling their Saskatchewan home this summer, which may force them to lower their asking price.
“Our retirement, dream home, life savings and move to Kelowna by the end of this summer are all in jeopardy if this variance is denied.”
Robert and Patricia Sklar could not be reached for comment before press deadline.
West Kelowna council is expected to revisit the issue at its meeting Tuesday, May 29.
Kelowna RCMP Const. Kris Clark said there is an ongoing investigation related to forgery, but no charges have been laid yet.