(Marisca Bakker photo)

West Fraser Concrete written up for violating building code

Property on Victoria Drive doesn’t comply with today’s rules anymore; owner says it is safe

A business on Victoria Drive in Smithers has been written up for violating building codes and having an expired building permit.

At the July 26 meeting of Smithers council, councillors voted to direct the corporate officer to file a notice in the Land Title Office stating that a resolution has been made pursuant to Section 57 of the Community Charter for West Fraser Concrete’s lot at 3520 Victoria Drive.

The owner of the lot, Hank Meerdink, who owns West Fraser Concrete was invited to the meeting to be heard.

West Fraser took over Mulder Concrete including the land it operated on in 2015, but has also been operating out of Telkwa since 1979.

Meerdink explained to council that they took out an old machine after buying the business on Victoria Drive that had outlived its life. They put a portable concrete plant into the existing structure that has better technology.

He also added some sections of walls to the structure. That structure, built over 60 years ago, did comply with building codes at that time, and before he modified it.

He also put a roof structure over another plant, which he applied for a building permit for and that is when the controversy started, he said.

“It is a strong secure structure,” he told council. “This is not a shop or residential structure.”

He added that anyone that goes in there is an employee and suggested he could sign off on liability for the town.

He also said it would be too expensive to bring the old structure up to code and would be cheaper to start from scratch. Meerdink also offered to give a tour of it to any of the councillors. Town staff have visited the site multiple times.

“I’d be interested in exploring this further in-camera,” said Coun. Frank Wray. “But we have the responsibility as councillors to follow the expert advice of our staff and I will go to look at the building, but I’m not a building inspector or an architect, I’m just a guy that works at the liquor store so I am not going to be able to see anything that will change my mind about this.”

A Notice on Title, note against land title, or Section 57 of the Community Charter, was provided to local governments by the Province of British Columbia as a tool to administer and enforce the BC Building Code and local building bylaws. It serves as notification to anyone searching a property title that the property may be in breach of bylaws or regulations.

The purpose is to provide information to potential owners and stakeholders of a breach of bylaws or regulations. It also encourages voluntary compliance to reduce risk to the local government. It is a method to protect future owners and others with an interest in the property.

Mayor Gladys Atrill seemed empathic toward Meerdink but said rules are rules.

“There is a piece of this that is also reflection of changing times, there is no escaping the fact that West Fraser has served the community for decades. Their business expands from Prince Rupert to Vanderhoof. It is a large operation that is relied upon by many people,” she explained.

“We have a building inspector that has a job to do, we have a responsibility as a municipality to uphold our building bylaw and that is what we ask our building inspector to do. While it may be, an individual with experience on the ground thinks what is being done is adequate after decades of experience, in fact the rules of today say that one shall do things one way. We’ve all had run-ins with rules that we think aren’t necessary that affect our jobs. But as a government organization [we need] to uphold the legal requirements.”