The District of Ucluelet is cracking down on the Raven Lodge for a bounty of unlawful structures and a long-drawn-out land use discrepancy.
Located at 2088 Peninsula Road, the property has held a business licence for a 13-room motel since 1996. However, when Ucluelet’s building inspector Nicholas Henderson visited the property on Oct. 7, 2019 to apply a Stop Work Order to a deck being installed without a permit, it became clear that the Raven was not being used as motel, but rather for full-time residential use.
Henderson also noted that other units had been clearly modified, additional suites had been added, and major structural renovations had occurred which are not consistent with the current building code.
“Dwelling units [were] added or converted, plus new decks and stairs added,” Henderson wrote in an email.
“Municipalities generally do not go looking for bylaw infractions; they usually come to the attention of the District as the result of some event (e.g., from a complaint, or work being done). In this case, there was some obvious new construction work being done on the property without a building permit,” Henderson wrote.
The deck that opened a whole new can of worms for Raven Lodge owners and tenants.(Nora O’Malley photo)
Henderson’s initial visit on Oct. 7 opened a whole new can of worms for the four owners and about 20 tenants living at the Raven Lodge.
On Nov. 14, Henderson alongside Ucluelet’s Fire Chief, Planner, and Bylaw Services Officer performed a visual inspection of all 17 units on the property, looking for safety deficiencies, fire safety requirements, and zoning compliance.
Tenant Jared Fenwick opened his studio unit for the inspection. Fenwick, a Windsor Plywood employee, has been living at the Raven Lodge for the last four years.
“The inspection was superficial. He just spent five minutes in here. He missed the window in the backroom,” said Fenwick, adding that his unit was flagged for not having an escape window. “[The District] needs to have correct information.”
Raven Lodge owners Glen Kaikkonen, Vincente Kimola, Tara Ryan, and Melissa Turner received a letter from the District of Ucluelet on Jan. 21, 2020 giving them one month to respond in writing with a proposed plan and timeline to address the building deficiencies.
“Everybody is stressed out,” said Fenwick. “I’m worried about not having a place to live. I don’t know where I’d go.”
Ucluelet’s manager of community planning, Bruce Greig, stated in the Jan. 21 letter to the owner’s that “we do not want to see any residents displaced from their homes as a result of this process.”
“It seems like they had good intentions and a lot of that was reassuring,” Fenwick told the Westerly after attending the Jan. 28 regular council meeting where the Raven Lodge complexities were discussed.
Greig noted that the immediate priority is to bring zoning amendment forward to secure the continued multi-family use.
“There should be no need to interrupt residential tenancies while this zoning amendment is in process,” Greig states in the Jan. 21 letter to the owners.
The owners of the Raven Lodge are responsible for obtaining permits and ensuring that all buildings and structures comply with the British Columbia Building Code.
“We expect to be having further discussions with the owners in the coming weeks. Our attention will remain on ensuring that minimum standards for health and safety are met, and we will focus on the most immediate deficiencies,” said Greig.
Glen Kaikkonen owns six units at the Raven Lodge. He addressed council during the Jan. 28 regular meeting.
“It’s a good idea. I appreciate the work that the city has done because it is a good thing moving forward,” said Kaikkonen, adding that the Raven Lodge has been a residential dwelling for the last 25 years.
Mayor Mayco Noel said district staff is working with the owners to delicately navigate the property and get the buildings up to compliance.
“The [Raven Lodge] serves a lot of residents in the community and we want to make sure the pain is minimal,” Noel said at the Jan. 28 regular council meeting.
Kaikkonen said he is in the process of looking for a loan to pay for the work that needs to be done to his units. He emphasized that the work cannot be done overnight and it will cost money.
“I’m hoping that the city doesn’t want us to move super fast. One of the sticky parts is finding a carpenter. We are working on it as fast as we can, given the time of year. Carpenters are hard to get a hold of. Everyone is super busy,” said Kaikkonen.