A new Whonnock resident is determined to fight Maple Ridge City Hall, after being told he needs to spend almost $18,000 for environmental reports to put gravel on his driveway, as he puts it.
Ray Vesely and his business partner Peter Greensmyth bought a 10-acre parcel on 272nd Street in 2020, and among the first improvements they made was to have new gravel and stone put on a long driveway to the back of their property. Vesely said it had been neglected for years.
Within days, the city put a stop-work order on a tree at the front of the driveway. The property owners were accused of putting in an entirely new access without contacting city hall. It sparked a back-and-forth with Maple Ridge City Hall that has lasted two years.
Vesely has a qualified opinion when it comes to property development and municipal regulations. He is a developer who is currently building a high-rise in Mission. The longtime North Vancouver resident served on that city’s board of variance, planning committee, and other city hall committees for 15 years.
Vesely showed city hall the second driveway, which runs parallel to the driveway to his house, was already there when he bought the house. His proof was a time-lapse feature on Google Earth to get a photo of the driveway from a decade ago, and a deposition from former owners. In recent months, city hall accepted that they didn’t build the road.
Still, city hall insists Vesely must apply for a soil permit. Because there’s a stream that runs next to the driveway, that triggers city hall’s demand for an environmental report, which must be paid for by the property owner.
In his correspondence with the city, environmental technician Thomas Loo explain the property owners need a watercourse protection development permit (WPDP). It’s designed to protect the natural environment, and requires a more intensive permitting process for works within 50 m of the top of the bank of watercourses and wetlands.
Vesely said the stream is not fish-bearing, doesn’t appear to be flowing, and dries up in the summer.
What’s more, he said the clean three-inch stone that he put on the existing driveway is an improvement for the natural environment, as clean aggregate will help keep fine soils from washing into the waterway. Other municipalities recommend doing exactly what he did, for streamside protection, said Vesely.
He regards it as simple maintenance of an existing access.
Vesely tallied the prices for the city’s demands: An environmental consultant’s report would cost $11,600; and a land surveyor would charge another $6,080 to satisfy the city. He doesn’t feel that is reasonable.
He took his complaint directly to former Mayor Mike Morden, who said in writing the road improvement is “beyond regular maintenance and clearly built for greater load and width for an unknown purpose.”
Vesely admits they had considered putting barns and paddocks for horses on the property. Now he doesn’t want the headaches of dealing with Maple Ridge City Hall.
“I’ve long given up on that,” he said, adding the gravel is simple maintenance of an existing driveway. It should not trigger the need for a development permit.
A letter from Loo dated Dec. 2, 2022, said the city will recognize the historical existence of the second access, only to the extent of the size and nature of it prior to his recent deposit of gravel. Loo suggests the owners remove the new aggregate to resolve the issue.
“So should you choose to not pursue the matter any further, provided the unpermitted material is removed, the city would not require the decommissioning of the second access,” Loo wrote.
City director of planning Chuck Goddard noted this matter has been before the courts, and Vesely was fined $1,000 for not getting a soil permit before working on the driveway. Goddard said the new driveway is wider and built to withstand heavy vehicles, compared to the “old goat trail” that had been the rear access, and Vesely should have applied for a permit.
Goddard said city hall is simply enforcing its bylaws in a consistent manner, protecting a water course that flows into a salmon bearing stream,, and Vesely is not being treated differently than other property owners. However, Vesely refuses to comply, he said.
“I’m extremely upset and very frustrated. This situation, in my opinion, is completely without merit, has gone on far too long, and is completely unacceptable,” Vesely wrote in a letter to Walter Oleschak, the city director of engineering, at the end of September 2022.
This week he wrote Mayor Dan Ruimy, asking for a bylaw amendment.
It would say no soil permit is required where material consists of clean aggregate, and is deposited onto an existing driveway for maintenance or refurbishing.
The city has not stated whether such an amendment will be considered.
Have a story tip? Email: email@example.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.