Gulch business owners appear before Trail council

The city has withheld licence renewals for both Mike's Plumbing and Heating and Gulch General Store due to bylaw infractions.

Owners of two Rossland Avenue businesses in peril of losing their operating licences appeared before Trail council Monday night.

Prior to cancelling a business licence, the city must provide the owners, in this case Darrell and Wendy LeMoel, with a notice and opportunity to be heard, which is called a show cause hearing.

The matter has been simmering since January when the city withheld licence renewals for the Gulch General Store and Mike’s Plumbing and Heating due to ongoing infractions of Trail’s building bylaws.

Darrell LeMoel spoke on behalf of son Casey LeMoel, who is managing both businesses from the main floor of 486 Rossland Ave., as well as two residential suites located on the second floor.

He first addressed the city’s position that Casey LeMoel is in violation of the plumbing and heating contractor licence because he is performing related work without the necessary certification.

According to the city’s business bylaw, carrying out work without required qualifications is considered gross misconduct and a public risk. Additionally, under the BC Plumbing Code, if an apprentice is on the job site, all work must be under complete supervision of a certified plumber or journeyman with respective certification.

The city maintains that while LeMoel provided copies of his and another employee’s apprenticeship registration, he failed to provide proof of the required supervision.

LeMoel said his son has been a registered apprentice since 2009, and worked under the direction of journeyman plumber Mike Mauro since that time.

Attached to their submission was a copy of Mauro’s plumbing licence and typed letter signed by the journeyman plumber, with acknowledgement that Casey is currently training under his direction. Coun. Kevin Jolly asked when Casey would complete his apprenticeship and at what point become a certified plumber.

The younger LeMoel replied he has over 9,000 training hours but would have to leave town for more classroom instruction, and take a test before Mauro could recommend him for certification.

“I just haven’t done that because I haven’t had anyone to cover for me here the last three or four years,” Casey added.

The hearing then moved to the possible business license revocation for the Gulch General Store.

The city maintains the LeMoels changed the occupancy of the business from retail/mercantile to restaurant/assembly occupancy without first obtaining the proper building permits as required.

Since 2013, there’s been numerous back and forth between the family and the regional district building department over building infractions such as the lack of exit doors, non-containment of the furnace room and extension cords taped onto furnace gas supply lines.

During a site inspection in April 2014, the department noted a seating area for patrons in the premises that included tables, napkin holders, and a menu boasting “Our famous 2 for 1 BP Italian Pizza,” plus extra crispy chicken, fish and chips and a full breakfast fare.

LeMoel held a food retailer’s permit from Interior Health for the sale of pre-packaged products such as frozen food items that could be reheated without deep frying, grilling or creating smoke or exhaust of any kind.

Additionally, expanding the sale of takeout food into a restaurant triggers not just permits, but requirements for certain amenities such as accessible washrooms and fire separation between the commercial space and the second floor apartments.

According to Darrell LeMoel, he met with the regional building and plumbing official in late January, with a proposal to eliminate the customer food service seating area. Two tables and six chairs would remain for staff use and free Internet use for retail customers.

LeMoel said the seating solution was promptly rejected, which led to the understanding that neither the city nor regional district was interested in resolving the matter.

“I think there are solutions available for this and I think it’s escalated a little bit,” said Darrell. “I don’t think it’s as complicated as it seems and I would like opportunity to work with city staff and staff at the regional district.”

He suggested building codes could be relaxed if the site was delegated a heritage building or classified as a location for small business assemblies, with 35 seats or less.

“We would like to work to clear things up and resolve these issues so we can work in harmony in the future,” added LeMoel.

Trail Mayor Mike Martin said council would exercise due diligence before making a recommendation to the city.

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