By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An Ontario woman faces a bill of nearly $100,000 to clean up her garbage-strewn property in Fauquier.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Rural Affairs Committee gave Lily Jia one month to clean up the roughly 3.5-acre site in the Arrow Lakes community in what bylaw officers called the “worst case in the whole RDCK.”
Jia purchased the property about three years ago with her husband, with the intention of cleaning up the existing mess and building a retirement home there. But her husband has since passed on, and no work has been done to clean up the extraordinary amount of garbage and dilapidated buildings on the property.
“The unsightliness was clearly evident by the amount of broken glass, needles, rotting garbage, broken household effects and clothing inside all structures up to and including the second floor spilling out of doors and windows onto the property,” noted a staff report to the committee, which oversees rural issues for the regional government. “There were multiple piles of household garbage strewn throughout the property that were rotting and an old abandoned vehicle.”
Not only that, the buildings on the property are “in complete disrepair and extremely unsafe.”
Officials estimate there are more than 50 dump truck loads of garbage and materials that have to be taken off the property.
“At that time Bylaw Enforcement Officer Jordan Dupuis attended and obtained video and photographic evidence and noted that this was the worst example of an unsightly property that he has ever seen,” the report adds.
RDCK officers have been in infrequent contact with Jia, and while they are sympathetic to her plight, noted this issue has been ongoing for several years and can’t be delayed any longer. The property has grown from a nuisance to a threat to neighbours and emergency workers.
The next door neighbour “lives in fear of the brown bears that have been fighting over the old orchard located between her and the subject property. She worries about bears coming onto her property at all hours and no longer feels safe in her own yard,” the staff report notes. “She is also very concerned about the effects of seepage on ground water and the risk of fire. She worries about the effect a fire could have from the burning garbage and chemicals on the surrounding community, which is all located within a kilometre of the subject property.”
Most recently, Jia told RDCK bylaw officials she had hired an Ontario contractor to come clean up the mess, but staff told RAC members they had seen the contract and pricing, and “did not think the contractor knew what he was getting into.”
Bylaw officials contacted local companies who estimated that a proper cleanup could cost $96,000. They said Jia’s promise to visit the property in October and clean up the mess herself were inadequate, as the size and nature of the job was too much.
“The cleanup of this property should only be done by professionals, with full protection from airborne danger and with heavy equipment,” bylaw officers wrote to Jia in August. “No one should be attempting to clean the property by `picking up garbage by hand.”’
The committee approved giving Jia until October 13 to clean up the mess herself, or the RDCK would hire a contractor and bill her.
Jia’s not the only homeowner to receive a cleanup order at the RAC meeting. Carl and Erin Tessier were also given 30 days to clean up their property in Salmo. The property has been in the RDCK’s sights for a dozen years, since first receiving neighbour’s complaints in 2011 about garbage, abandoned cars, barrels of vehicle fluids, toys, a burned-out mobile home, and rusting appliances on the property.
After 15 separate visits by bylaw, RDCK directors on the RAC committee said they had plenty of other issues for bylaw to deal with, and felt it was time to move on the matter. They gave the Tessiers a final 60 days to clean up the mess, or the RDCK will hire a contractor to do the job. The bill for the work will be sent to them, and if they don’t pay, the cost will be added to their property tax bill.
The full board of the RDCK ratified the decisions by the Rural Affairs members the next day.