Pubdate: Fri, 13 Apr 2007
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Goldstream News Gazette
Author: Rudy Haugeneder
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


View Royal Is The Latest West Shore Municipality To Invoke Bylaw

Penalties of up to $150,000 will soon be in place to deter View Royal
landlords from ignoring drug laboratories and marijuana grow
operations on their properties.

"It's a pre-emptive tool," said Mayor Graham Hill at a committee of
the whole meeting Tuesday that reviewed a draft of a nuisance bylaw
targeting controlled substances.

With the bill, expected to pass in the next couple of months, the town
will become the latest West Shore municipality to pass a bylaw with
hefty fines and penalties designed to halt illegal drug manufacturing
operations in residential neighborhoods.

A major aim of the anti-drug bylaw is to get landlords to check their
rental properties regularly for illegal drug operations.

In addition to a fine of up to $10,000 for breaking it, the controlled
substances bylaw allows municipalities to charge property owners for
all emergency service personnel and cleanup costs linked to marijuana
grow-op or meth labs.

That amounts to big money that must be paid within 45 days -- or it is
added to property taxes.

View Royal pegs the cost of safe transportation and disposal of
controlled substances at $30,000 for a small operation, and up to
$150,000 for a larger one.

To protect themselves from bad tenants, the View Royal bylaw says
property owners must do regular inspections of their tenant's space,
or face policing and clean-up fees if police or municipal officers
discover a drug lab.

The bylaw mirrors legislation recently passed by Colwood and Langford
carrying virtually identical financial penalties, not including other
consequences and criminal charges if a police officer or firefighter
is killed or permanently injured putting down a drug manufacturing

A single RCMP officer dismantling a grow-op costs $52 per hour, and
$500 for each inspection until the property complies with fire and
building codes.

The regulation is about full cost recovery and to encourage landlords
to do inspections to mitigate illegal actions, Hill said.

The bylaw has been in the works since the beginning of 2006, after the
Union of British Columbia Municipalities presented a model bylaw at
its annual convention.

"It's all about public health and safety," said Hill, pointing out the
perils of the toxic materials that go into the production of crystal
meth, and the health and electrical hazards unsuspecting tenants may
face if a home they rent has been used as a lab or marijuana grow-op.

Other substantial costs include those of fire department personnel.
The cost of a fire truck and crew of six weighs in at $600 an hour.

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

The bylaw aims to recover 100 per cent of the costs of clean-up and to
encourage landlords to do inspections to mitigate illegal actions.

Colwood's existing bylaw gives landlords and homeowners 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.

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

The controlled substance bylaw is difficult to challenge.

A UBCM legal team has vetted a template version of the bylaw to
several municipalities including Surrey, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Kelowna
and Vernon.

It has yet to be tested in court, but several municipalities across
the province are using it to shut down drug operations.

By last summer 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 last year to ensure homeowners restore their property to
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