Public feedback outweighed process in council chambers this week when the Village of Fruitvale granted the Villagers Inn and Pub permission to deviate from a muted colour scheme and keep its newly updated scarlet red trim.
But the recommendation wasn’t passed without business owner mary Siu and building manger Len Fuller receiving an earful.
“I think this whole situation has kind of painted council as some kind of villain here and I think that’s been very unfair,” said Coun. Bert Kniss.
A stop order was put on renovations at the Villagers last month because the owner neglected to take out a building permit, at which time staff noticed the new bright colour selected for the building’s roof and trim didn’t fit in with the village’s historical colour scheme set out for revitalization and new construction.
The Villagers was granted permission to finish its roofing job when the leaky roof led to council scheduling an emergency meeting last month.
At that time, council asked Siu to pay $200 for a review of the red trim, which came to the forefront during Monday night’s council meeting.
“I find it hard to believe that any business owner doesn’t know that you need a permit to complete work,” said Coun. Jill Prince. “It is unfortunate that people disregard the systems that are in place to protect the community and keep it moving forward because it makes it so that council has to become an enforcer and we end up having more bureaucracy and more costs for the rest of the taxpayers and other business owners.”
A petition signed by almost 200 area residents and visitors made the Villagers’ case that the new paint was a noticeable improvement. The village also received some phone calls as well as some readers responded to online news with further words on Fruitvale’s outdated design concept.
The suggested look is part of the village’s bylaw for its development permit area, which covers all of the village’s business sector. It was originally introduced in 1982 but was amended many times since changes were last made in 1986.
“This unfortunate situation has brought it all into the forefront of public opinion and interest more than it ever was before, which is actually a good thing,” Fuller noted in a letter presented to council. “More public input on government policy is exactly what is needed to move ahead into the future with much less conflict and misunderstanding.”
At this time the village looks to update its development permit guidelines, a process that has been underway since last September with a total of three open houses held to gather public and business input.
“I think it goes to show that public expectation of how the village should look is extremely high because the amount of public complaints and requests for bylaw enforcements have been really significant and has taken a lot of time,” said Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale chief administrative officer.
On an average year, Fruitvale will deal with about 130 complaints, with the majority noting property standards. However at the end of May there were just over 60 requests and now the list is just shy of 200.
“The cost of actually administrating these bylaws and the ability to actually get compliance is getting difficult,” added Cresswell.
As a result, council decided Monday to request permission from the province to be registered under the bylaw dispute adjudication system. If granted approval, residents who are not happy with the way their case is sorted locally, can choose to go through a mediator for a fee of $25.
The mediator can then decide to cut the fine in half, drop it or leave it as is (the same process the local government would also follow).
If a resident doesn’t pay an upheld fine, then it can go to a collection agency or if it can be tied to a property owned, then it will be charged against the owner’s taxes at the end of the year.
“We haven’t laid fines traditionally, we work towards compliance,” added Cresswell. “We’ve stayed away from fines because with fines you have to go to court and it costs a fair amount of money.
“This is a way to short-circuit that but to work toward compliance if you can, and if you can’t then you have some teeth.”