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> B.c. Homeowners Fuming, Grow Op Search Law
Green Bastard
postJan 21 2011, 09:56 PM
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Hey boss how did it go the other night at the meeting?

B.C. homeowners fuming over marijuana growing operation search law


By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News January 21, 2011

Read more: http://www.canada.com/technology/homeowner...l#ixzz1BjzilpPZ

METRO VANCOUVER — A controversial B.C. law that allows municipalities to inspect homes using large amounts of electricity has helped make neighbourhoods safer and thwarted marijuana-growing operations, says a criminology professor whose research triggered the law.

But his comments are unlikely to move outraged citizens in one community, who are girding for a fight with their local council and threatening a class-action lawsuit — complaining that they've been slapped with unjust and excessive inspection fees and unfairly labelled as criminals.

A change in 2006 to the B.C. Safety Standards Act gave municipalities direct access to electricity-consumption data from the province's electric utility, BC Hydro, and the ability to identify homes with unusually high power usage.

Armed with that data, public-safety teams, consisting of building, fire and electrical experts, have been inspecting some of these properties after giving homeowners 24 to 48 hours notice.

The inspectors typically look for tampered wiring and plumbing, overloaded circuits, mould buildup, pesticides, holes in walls and extra ventilation ducts — possible indications of a grow op.

But even if a grow op isn't found — which is the case most of the time — authorities can still find that a home is in violation of safety bylaws and require the homeowner to fix the problems.

"There has been a tendency for people to view this as nothing more (than) a backdoor to get at grow ops. This a complete misrepresentation," said Darryl Plecas, a criminology professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

While the bylaws have helped make a dent in the number of grow ops, the driving force behind them is safety, said Plecas, whose research has found that grow ops constitute a fire hazard because of the way electrical wiring is configured.

"Should we ignore these safety hazards?" he asked.

But critics say municipalities are unfairly tagging violators' property titles as a "controlled-substance property," even when no plants are found.

"They are essentially fabricating grow ops," said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

"They are designating that a residence is a 'controlled-substance property,' burdening the land title with an allegation of growing drugs, devaluing the property."

The finding of mould, potting soil and holes in the wall are hardly solid evidence of a marijuana grow op, she said, adding that one resident who was found in violation had been growing cucumbers.

On top of that, residents found in violation are assessed hefty fees to cover the cost of inspecting their homes. In the District of Mission, where much of the attention has been focused, the fee is $5,200.

"Somebody who goes through and inspects your house when you're buying your house will charge a few hundred dollars," Vonn said.

Seventy-four residents in that community have signed on for a class-action lawsuit, though a statement of claim has not yet been filed. One local councillor has put forward a motion to repeal the bylaw at this Monday's council meeting.

But B.C. fire chiefs are standing by the inspection programs.

Ian Fitzpatrick, the Mission fire chief, said Friday that when inspections started in 2008, his district's teams levelled inspection fees in about 75 to 80 per cent of the cases. Now that number has dropped to about 50 per cent.

"The perception we charge everybody is not true at all," he said. "I believe as the fire chief, it's made an impact in the community in terms of reducing the number of properties with safety concerns."

Len Garis, the chief in Surrey, B.C., one of the first municipalities to do inspections, said the vast majority of residents who are slapped with inspection fees never complain, an indication to him that they were doing something they shouldn't have been doing.

The disclosure of a violation on a property title could create a lasting "stigma", but prospective homebuyers deserve to know if that property has ever been found in violation of a bylaw, he said.

Read more: http://www.canada.com/technology/homeowner...l#ixzz1BjzvwFXh
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Bronx
postJan 22 2011, 08:51 AM
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A few Hundred people showed up.. the library meeting room was packed...although the lawyer did not attend.

There is going to be a town hall meeting on monday which i will attend
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Randy
postJan 23 2011, 06:27 AM
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sounds like they are pushing their limits of authority, while I agree to shut down grow ops, they should not be peanlizing the innocent people they have invaded they should be compensating them so they can make repairs to the home.

just my 1.5c
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Bronx
postJan 23 2011, 07:32 AM
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Its the way the municipality is doing it that is ruffling some feathers. They determine an amount of power that is acceptable for a household to use... and then red flag anyone who exceeds its.. even if the home is much larger... has extra outbuildings (hobby farm ) or has extras such as hottubs and /or swimming pools.

The way they are going about it has to change... or the elected officials of this particular town may find they need new jobs come election time
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Green Bastard
postJan 23 2011, 09:15 AM
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Atebe is an asshole, him and his sidekick backwoods witch doctor who's always whispering in his ear have been bad news for the municipality since he started running virtually unopposed before he got elected. The last mayor screwed over the town with the bad deal on the West side along with the community center debacle which have cost the taxpayers dearly. Atebe will tell you one thing and do the exact opposite. Most people in the know called him the two headed snake and nothing he has done has eased the burden of taxes and this new bylaw has cost people more than just the 5k or so for the inspection, a couple of people have lost there houses over this bad place of municipal legislation. To top that all off any costs incurred by this class action law suit will be placed right back onto the homeowners yet again.
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Bronx
postJan 23 2011, 09:53 AM
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Some stories have pegged the revenues gained by these inspections at nearly 1.5 million before fulltime wages are paid to this Power Safety Inspection Team. On top of that they are discussing increasing property taxs yet again despite having all this excess money now.

Looking around the room at the meeting the other night you could clearly see that many of the people there that have already been fined were not growers.. but perhaps they consume more power than BC Power has indicated is an acceptable use for an average home.

Many said that the inspections were more like 10 minute walk throughs and any thing that they thought stood out like Tuck tape (the red tape most insulators use ) Vents , Mold , Changes to your electrical panel or anything else they may deem unacceptable. City council has yet to refund one person so far that has disputed these fines

The biggest problem now is like GB said in his last post... the city if it loses the class action suit they will obviously appeal the decision which will cost a lot of money which gets pushed back on the tax payers. Then if they ultimately lose they will have to refund the monies collected which will also be pushed back onto the tax payers which means we are screwed coming and going on this one.

Perhaps change is coming to some of these municipalities who strong arm their citizens in this latest cash cow endeavor. It may also be a bad decision for the Power company to alienate its customers by allowing customers privacy and expectation of privacy over something as trivial as this. For those unaware... BC Power flags any residence that exceeds 93KW per day and hands that users information over to whatever community gestapo agency is looking after these bogus inspections.


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