Inspections a long time coming

It's taken almost a year for building inspectors to look into a Marsh Lake hotel not up to National Building Code standards.

It’s taken almost a year for building inspectors to look into a Marsh Lake hotel not up to National Building Code standards.

Last November, Lands officials were alerted that the Inn on the Lake resort was renting out cabins to guests without final building and occupancy permits and, in one case, unapproved fireplaces and chimney lines.

Nine months later, when the News investigated the hotel, nothing had changed.

“The matter has been raised with the building owner,” said acting building inspection director Doug Badry.

“We do take it seriously – we’re updating files as we speak.”

Why did it take so long for building inspectors to follow through with residents’ concerns?

With only four building inspectors for the entire territory, the government doesn’t have the resources to police builders, said Badry.

The city gets more bang for its buck. Whitehorse has the same number of inspectors as the Yukon government and completed more inspections than the territory did in 2009 – 2,893 inspections versus 2,092.

And the city is more aggressive in following through with inspections even though, like the Yukon government, it places the onus on builders to contact it for inspections.

Inspectors comb through building files each year when the construction season has died down, looking for incomplete permits.

“Inspectors will call and say to a builder, ‘You need to wrap up your stove permit, it’s still open and it’s a year or two old,’” said city planning director Mike Gau.

“We do that every single winter.”

Each building requires about five separate inspections from the time the foundation is poured to when finishing touches like handrails are put in, before it is deemed safe to live in.

If a builder skips an inspection or continues building without a proper permit, the city will charge them double the permit fee.

And if a building doesn’t have its final permits, the city will actively step in to enforce the National Building Code.

“Where we get more involved is if somebody has been occupying a building that hasn’t been given an occupancy permit,” said Gau.

But it’s rare that builders miss an inspection, he said.

At Inn on the Lake, owner Carson Schiffkorn had a rental cottage that didn’t have final building and occupancy permits for 14 years.

M’Clintock Place residents living near the hotel brought it to the attention of the government last fall.

But only in August, weeks before he sold the property, did Schiffkorn get his final inspections done, a requirement needed before selling off any property.

The government knew about the property for almost a year and didn’t do anything. Yet it still acknowledges the importance of these inspections.

“The (occupancy permit) reinforces that homeowners keep themselves and their properties and their neighbours and everybody safe,” said Badry.

“When we grant an occupancy permit and a final, it means that the (building) has passed all the inspections and complies with the National Building Code.”

The Yukon government makes no distinction between commercial and residential inspections, including hotels.

All their inspections place the onus on the builder to call for an inspection.

The government is now working with Inn on the Lake to bring it up to code, said Badry.

“We’re going to take steps to bring all properties, including the ones at M’Clintock Place, into compliance.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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