A Semiahmoo Peninsula woman says more needs to be done to enforce bylaws governing cleanliness of construction-site properties during development.
Caroline Wallis says that while White Rock and area used to look beautiful and clean, “now, it’s looking like a dump.”
Wallis, who lives on the border of White Rock and Surrey, said garbage left on job sites is not exclusive to construction-related material, and includes everything from “paper, plastics, Styrofoam, plastic bags, lunch garbage, rubber gloves – all that kind of crap.”
“We have to look at that daily. It’s not just one house, it’s every block. It’s like garbage dump, after garbage dump, after garbage dump,” she said in a recent interview with Peace Arch News, adding that she regularly walks in White Rock.
She did not want to name a specific property out of fear of retaliation, but said “if you just drive around in your car and look for a development, it wouldn’t take you long to see some disgusting job sites. They’re everywhere.”
City of Surrey bylaw manager Jas Rehal said the department received 75 related complaints last year. Officials with City of White Rock bylaw enforcement did not return a phone-interview request, however, city communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi responded to PAN by email.
Farrokhi did not specify how many such complaints White Rock has received.
“Like other municipalities, the City occasionally gets complaints about construction material crossing property lines. Planning and development staff do follow up with such complaints. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the constructions companies/owners to ensure that they create and manage a healthy and safe work environment as per WorkSafe BC,” Farrokhi said in her email.
When a complaint is filed in Surrey about a job site without proper garbage disposal, a bylaw officer is sent to investigate, Rehal said.
“Most of the times when we’re there it’s a conversation with the site superintendent or developer. We work through it and get issues addressed. There hasn’t been any problems with that,” Rehal said. “We want pretty quick resolutions.”
Wallis said she spoke to a White Rock bylaw officer, who reportedly told her that complainants in White Rock have one month to clean the site after being contacted by a bylaw officer.
“I know what happens. They have one month to clean it up, and then they clean it up, and then they start it all over again. It never really ends, it’s perpetual,” Wallis said, adding that she believes contractors should be given 48 hours to remove garbage after a complaint is filed.
Farrokhi said that it’s the city’s expectation that garbage is disposed of in accordance with the city’s and Metro Vancouver’s solid-waste regulations, and “if garbage blows onto or ends up on an adjacent property, Planning and Development staff will contact the contractor and/or the owner to have it removed.”
Wallis told PAN that she saw a “mound of garbage” on a property being developed near Kent Street Activity Centre in White Rock.
“It was as high as the second level of the house. Boxes, cardboard, plastic, everything you could imagine, piled,” Wallis said.
“The difference is on the White Rock side, for some reason, most of the time they fence it in and then they don’t think it’s a problem.”
Told of Wallis’s concern with contractors only cleaning the property once per month, Rehal said that it “sounds very unreasonable.”
“Without looking at a specific incident or issue, that would not be a normal practice,” he said. “Almost all the time when we show up there, and have a conversation with them, the compliance is fairly quickly.”
Another concern, said Wallis, is contractors burying garbage.
She said that she confronted a construction crew near her home for its unsightliness, and saw a hole – “like the size of a coffin” – that was filled with garbage, she told PAN.
“They just throw the garbage into the hole then it gets buried,” she said, adding that it can cause drainage problems.
Rehal said he cannot recall a specific case, but that “I have heard that it has happened.”
“That wouldn’t be an appropriate way of garbage disposal and that would be a violation,” he added.
Farrokhi told PAN that the city is “not aware of this alleged act occurring nor have we received such a complaint.”
“If the City receives a complaint that a contractor/owner is doing such an act, we would investigate and ensure that any waste is properly disposed of by the contractor. We would also enforce applicable bylaws,” she said.
Wallis said she would like to see stricter penalties.
“White Rock is not as pretty as it used to be. It’s under construction, and it doesn’t help when the people building these homes leave the property looking like a crap hole for six to eight months.”