A Richmond, B.C., property littered with derelict cars, pallets, cardboard and a large shipping container is the subject of growing discontent from neighbours and city hall, in a saga that's lasted more than a decade.
For 13 years, the home on the 10000-block of Severn Drive has drawn complaints and faced discipline from the city, including numerous tickets worth thousands of dollars.
The owner is currently appealing a city order to comply with an Unsightly Premises Regulation Bylaw that was issued nearly two years ago.
"The homeowner is clearly having great difficulty cleaning up this property, and it effects the quality of life of everybody around [them]," said Coun. Carol Day.
The house is owned by an elderly woman named Shirley Wong. Her son, Edward Wong, has been dealing with city council on behalf of the property. Both of them have been issued numerous tickets in violation of local bylaws.
On Sept. 20, city council voted to adjourn the appeal hearing to a later date, effectively giving the Wongs an additional two weeks to clean up before the city starts to take matters into its own hands. Day was among three Richmond councillors who voted against the motion.
At the hearing, Edward Wong said the whole process had felt like a "knife against my throat."
"My brother and I and my 89-year-old mom are working so hard to try to comply," Edward Wong said in that meeting. "I worked very hard in the long hot summer and thought this should be satisfactory for now."
A 13-year issue
According to a Richmond staff report, the house has been problematic for 13 years with over 15 unsightly premise complaints.
On two occasions, city crews have gone ahead with forced cleanups at the owner's expense, but "this property has a pattern of re-accumulating waste and discarded items, leading to non-compliance with the unsightly bylaw," according to the report.
Following one of the most recent complaints lodged in 2019, inspectors found garbage in the front and backyards, mounds of newspapers and cardboard in various spots, and a shipping container filled with paper products.
Rats became an issue in both the backyard and nearby properties, they said.
A subsequent inspection reported another shipping container and two derelict vehicles.
Since the order to comply was issued in January 2020, council has given the Wongs numerous extensions. But Day says the time for tolerance is over.
"I don't think prolonging this process and giving one more deadline over another deadline will do any good," she said.
"At some point, you have to be cruel to be kind."
Under the order to comply, city staff can come in and remove waste and at least one of the derelict vehicles, and bill expenses to the owner. Removing the shipping container, however, would have to be done through a separate bylaw order.
At the council meeting, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the city is losing patience.
"This needs to be done and, frankly, no more excuses," he said.
Council will vote on the appeal on Oct. 4.