George Buhler addresses council last week.

Big Eddy building permit dispute comes to council

Local contractor asks City of Revelstoke to lift moratorium on Big Eddy building permits; City says no such moratorium exists.

A local contractor is asking the City of Revelstoke to begin issuing building permits in the Big Eddy again.

The city says that’s not possible – because there is no moratorium on building permits. George Buhler, who has been contracted to build a new storage facility for Vince Sessa, the owner of the Big Eddy Market, and is representing several Big Eddy property owners in an assessment appeal, made the demand at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The Big Eddy tax payers should be given the same opportunity to develop their property as any other tax payer of the City of Revelstoke,” said Buhler, reading from a prepared statement.

Buhler told council it “made absolutely no sense” that the same water system that provided fire protection to existing buildings wasn’t good enough for a new development.

“There is absolutely no evidence that the City of Revelstoke would be liable for a fire unless they would refuse to attend the fire or make a reasonable attempt to extinguish the fire,” he said.

He said the bylaws that govern the city water system “cannot be applied” to Big Eddy Waterworks since the city does not own it.

The Big Eddy water system is facing water quality and water quantity issues. The water quality means Interior Health has put the Big Eddy under a water quality advisory, and the quantity issue means there isn’t enough water for commercial fire flow.

Mayor Mark McKee responded to Buhler, saying he would look into the issues of liability with staff.

“What I can tell you, and I can tell residents of the Big Eddy, is that nobody around this table ran for council saying that we cannot give out building permits in the Big Eddy,” he said.

What about the premise of Buhler’s presentation – that the city is refusing to issue building permits? Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, said that is not the case.

“We’re not refusing building permits,” Thomas said. “At no point have we stated to George or anyone else that the city would refuse to issue a building permit if the applicant could show compliance with the relevant bylaws.”

The relevant bylaw is the one that governs fire flow requirements on commercial properties. Since the Big Eddy Waterworks doesn’t provide adequate flow, any commercial developer would have to devise a system on their property to provide enough on their own, said Thomas.

He said that was the case throughout the city and not just in the Big Eddy and that the same rules are being applied to the brewery expansion in Johnson Heights.

“This is not an unusual request from the city,” he said.

He added that municipalities could be held liable in case of a fire.

Buhler, for his part, said the city was “back-pedalling like crazy” when asked to reply to Thomas’ comments.

The City of Revelstoke has applied for grant funding to help pay for the $4.5 million cost of upgrading the Big Eddy Waterworks so it can both water quality and fire flow requirements. A decision on funding is expected later this year.

“”We’re making every effort to be successful in the long term to support the Big Eddy water system,” said Thomas.

 

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