House demolition angers West Side resident

Homeowner says city approving too many development permits

A West Side woman says the city is rubber-stamping so many demolition and development permits that staff cant keep up with owners and developers who frequently violate bylaws.

Cheryl Virtue said shes experienced a nightmare since the new owner of 3256 King Edward began demolishing the house next door to her home, which she is selling. She said the problems began earlier this month when the new owner, Babu Sellathurai, approached her about signing off on a large hazelnut tree he wanted to cut down in the alley. Virtues signature was required by the city before Sellathurai could remove the tree.

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The city told me the tree was the difference between him building a three car garage or a two car garage, said Virtue. She refused to sign the letter.

Virtue called the city to inquire why demolition of the house had begun when several mature trees, including the hazelnut and a large cherry on her property, werent being protected. Despite Virtues concerns, much of the root of her cherry tree, part of which was on Sellathurais property, was hacked away by a bulldozer.

After she complained again to the city, Virtue said Sellathurai was told not to touch the tree until an arborist report was completed. But the next day she took a video of a worker using a chainsaw on the roots of the tree.

Virtue said workers were on the property on Sunday, when city bylaws forbid construction work, continuing the demolition. Virtue was concerned due to recent warnings from the Vancouver Police Department regarding an increased number of arsons and break-and-enters on the West Side. She called the VPDs non-emergency number and was told to call 911 if anyone was in the house without permission. She said by the time police arrived the workers were gone but the garage door was open and a gas can was inside. She said police called the fire department, which removed the can.

She said men showed up to the property three times Sunday. They included one man who didnt know the name of the contractor who he said hired him. On Monday, Virtue said a bulldozer ran all day long, even when unattended, music played loud enough to be heard over the bulldozer and crews arrived early and worked late.

Virtue, who owns three dogs, also said Sellathurai gave her only one-day notice before part of her fence was on his property and would be torn down.

Sellathurai, who heads up Vithu Developments, told the Courier hes been building houses for 10 years and never received complaints regarding bylaw infractions.

He said the problem started when he petitioned the neighbours about erecting an extra light in the alley behind the property. He said all of the immediate neighbours with the exception of Virtue signed the petition he needed for approval to put up the light.

Its been trouble ever since, said Sellathurai.

He confirmed part of Virtues fence was on his property, but added before he could discuss options with her, she had a friend tear down the three sections. He said he immediately erected blue construction safety fencing to divide the properties.

Sellathurai noted he doesnt take the complaints lightly.

I had booked a ticket to go to Toronto Saturday, but I postponed it so I can clear this thing up, said Sellathurai. I dont like it so I need to clear it up.

Despite repeated phone calls, the city did not respond before the Couriers press deadline.

Twitter @sthomas10

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