North Vancouver Building Permit: Off-Grid home rejected by DNV Staffers

North Vancouver Building Permit Denied

Bill Guest was enjoying the serenity of his Mount Seymour property from the back deck of a shed he built there three years ago. A judge has ruled the structure is a safety hazard and must come down.
Photograph by: NEWS photo, Jane Seyd

North Vancouver Building Permit Denied.

NO. NOPE. AND NO WAY:  The answer hasn’t changed for a North Vancouver man who wants to have a building on a remote lot in the middle of the forest, despite a lengthy court fight.

Bill Guest has been fighting the District of North Vancouver for three years for the chance to have any kind of structure on his residential zoned lot in the Mount Seymour forest. But for almost as long, the municipality has told him no permanent structures are allowed.

This month, a judicial review backed up those earlier decisions, saying the district was within its rights to refuse permits because of fire concerns.

The decision means Guest will have to dismantle a shed on the property that a judge earlier ordered taken down.

For Guest, the ruling is a disappointing end to a venture that has cost him more than $100,000.

Guest bought the property on the side of Mount Seymour for $90,000 four years ago after seeing it listed on the real estate Multiple Listing Service.

Three years ago, he hired a local company to build a 10-foot-by-10-foot shed to store his tools, books, bottles of water and even a fire extinguisher where they would stay dry.

Because the shed is small and isn’t being lived in, Guest said he didn’t think he needed a permit. He said that’s also what he was told when he checked with the municipality.

But less than 10 days after the shed was built, the District of North Vancouver came calling to tell Guest that’s not the case.

The forested property is one of about 65 isolated private lots in the municipality’s forest or alpine areas. Most of those were drawn up on maps many decades ago and were essentially speculative.

Staff said although the property is residentially zoned, because there is no road access or water supply, it’s illegal to build on it.

Chief among the municipal concerns is the potential for some kind of human-caused fire that could quickly spread to the surrounding forest, particularly from a lot with no water supply.

In March 2011, the district took Guest to court, asking a judge for an injunction to get rid of the shed. The judge agreed with the municipality.

But this spring, Guest approached the district one more time, submitting a building permit application for a house with an alternate fire-suppression system, approved by engineers. He was rejected again.

Guest went back to court, arguing that the staffer who rejected his plans isn’t an engineer and has no specialized training in fire suppression systems for “off the grid” homes.

But B.C. Justice David Masuhara ruled this month the municipality is still entitled to turn down the application.

“This is not a case of delayed fire response because of awkward or inadequate access roads; this is a case where fire vehicles would not be able to reach the property at all in the event of a fire,” Masuhara wrote.


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