Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2006
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Goldstream News Gazette
Author: Edward Hill
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Colwood Council Expected To Vote On New Bylaw Within The Month

A bylaw aiming to crack down on household drug labs will likely come 
before Colwood council next month, after finding support with the 
protective services committee.

The Nuisance (Controlled Substances) bylaw would allow the 
municipality to charge property owners for all emergency service 
personnel and cleanup costs linked to marijuana grow-op or meth labs.

It would also enable municipal fire and inspection officials to 
revoke occupancy permits and shut off power and water until the 
building is free of drug infrastructure.

The regulations are expected to become common across most of the West 
Shore. Langford's version has been given initial readings and is 
before the Ministry of Health for review. View Royal is in the 
process of drafting its version.

The bylaw says property owners must do regular inspections of their 
tenant's space, or risk considerable fees if police or municipal 
officers discover a drug lab.

A single officer dismantling a grow-op can cost $52 per hour, and 
$500 for each inspection until the property complies with fire and 
building codes. Homeowners can have the fees tacked onto their 
property taxes if they are reluctant to pay.

"The bylaw is about 100 per cent cost recovery and to encourage 
landlords to do inspections to mitigate illegal actions," said Kevin 
Atkinson, Colwood's bylaw enforcement officer.

Homeowners do have an out if they voluntarily report drug operations 
to the municipality. Fees would be waived, but the owner is still 
responsible for home repair costs.

Grow-operators usually rewire homes and punch through walls for 
ventilation, while marijuana plants can infect homes with a toxic 
mould. Chemicals from meth labs leech into drywall and cause health 
problems for future tenants.

Atkinson said there is no hard-and-fast procedure for each incident.

"Each will be evaluated individually on its own merits," he said.

Lorne Fletcher, Langford's bylaw enforcement officer, admits the 
regulations seem punitive on property owners, but said cities have 
few other options to recover costs.

Cleaning up a meth lab can run anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000, and 
that cost is compounded because Vancouver Island doesn't have a 
Hazmat team, Fletcher said in a Langford protective services staff report.

"If we adopt this, the bylaw creates resistance, grow-ops go to areas 
less diligent," Fletcher said, speaking to Colwood's protective 
services committee. "It's not 100 per cent, but it creates a resistance."

A legal team has vetted a template version of the bylaw distributed 
by the B.C. Union of Municipalities. Surrey, Chilliwack, Kamloops, 
Kelowna and Vernon have adopted local versions of the bylaw.

It has yet to be tested in court, but B.C. municipalities are using 
it to shut down drug operations. For instance, the City of Surrey's 
electrical and fire safety team shut down 226 properties in 2005, 
according to local media reports. Kamloops shut down 14 homes last 
year under municipal safety regulations, and three were brought back to code.

Surrey has been recouping emergency services costs for years, but 
added a bylaw in February to ensure homeowners restore their property 
to code. So far this year, Surrey shut down 212 homes, and collected 
$370,000 in policing costs and $170,000 in electrical and fire inspector costs.

"It's been phenomenal," said John Sherstone, Surrey's bylaw manager. 
"We are protecting the residents of Surrey, and all costs are being 
recouped. Taxpayers aren't paying a thing."

Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan, chair of the protective services 
committee, said he expects council to adopt the bylaw.

"I fully endorse this to combat illegal drugs and to protect 
neighbourhoods," Logan said Wednesday. "It's a good way to go, and we 
should move on it."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman