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Drug Inspection Bylaw Stands, For Now

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
A motion to scale back a bylaw mandating bi-monthly rental property inspections for illegal drug operations was defeated by North Cowichan council at its last meeting, sparking a debate on political process.

Council's 3-3 tie on the motion to amend the controversial bylaw means the original regulation stands. But councillor Dave Haywood, who supported the amendment, says he expects the issue will be revisited when councillor George Seymour returns from vacation. Seymour voted for the amendment in principle at the Sept. 5 council meeting.

Haywood expressed concern during the Wednesday meeting that the wishes of the full council could not be respected in Seymour's absence. Council elected not to defer the vote.

After the meeting, North Cowichan mayor Jon Lefebure says delaying the vote would have confounded the political process. "Nobody anywhere does that," he says.

A report on the motion from Director of Administration Mark Ruttan suggests council may wish to consider the possibility of using data from BC Hydro to monitor excess electrical consumption.

"I think that's another tool to uncover grow ops," said Lefebure, who voted against the amendment. "I'm not sure I would relate it directly to the bylaw."

Rowan Properties general manager Margaret Wall says the current inspection system isn't working. The property management company hasn't uncovered a single incident of tenants growing marijuana since the bylaw came into effect in Feburary. Wall points out that landlords' legal obligation to give tenants 24 hours' notice before entering their suite gives persons growing or manufacturing illegal substances plenty of time dispose of the evidence.

Good, says councillor Glen Ridgway. "If they get rid of a grow-op, that's exactly what we want."

He says the purpose of the bylaw is not to catch everyone who might be harbouring a grow-op, but to minimize the use of rental activity as a place for illegal activity.

Ridgway says scaling back the frequency of inspections to twice a year is out the question because the planting to harvest cycle is less than six months. Mayor Jon Lefebure echoed that sentiment, saying three months would make more sense than six, but bi-monthly checks are not enough.

Wall says tenants are very unhappy with such frequent inspections.

"They are really getting quite hostile towards us," she says. But Wall says she doesn't blame them. "We're imposing on their privacy," she says. "They just don't want someone going through their homes every two months." Wall notes that Rowan Properties has not had problems with grow ops for many years.

The bylaw was designed to allow the municipality to avoid footing the bill for the police or fire department's role in dealing with houses damaged by grow ops. Ridgway says he supported a clause that would give landlords a chance to avoid being billed for the municipality's share of remediation costs if they could show due diligence in trying to prevent the illegal use of their suites.

Wall says it's tenants who end up paying for the cost of inspections in the form of rent increases. Rowan properties charges landlords an extra $50 per inspection.

Councillors Melissa Hailey, Ann Murray and Dave Haywood voted for the amendment, with Mayor Jon Lefebure, Ruth Hartmann, and Glen Ridgway voting against.

North Cowichan RCMP spokesperson Susan Boyes did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

Source: Ladysmith Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Contact: editor@ladysmithchronicle.com
Website: Ladysmith Chronicle - Your Best source for Local Community News delivered in print or online
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