Notebook

NOTEBOOK: Councillor pushes for construction industry watchdog

Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper wants to establish a watchdog to rein in what he calls “needlessly thoughtless and disrespectful behaviour” on the part of the construction industry, particularly on problematic infill developments.

He wants the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) to fund an ombudsperson to field complaints and resolve disputes. Here’s part of what he wrote on his web site on the weekend:

One of the greatest frustrations I have as the one looked to most often to sort out disagreements between builders and neighbours is how few tools Councillors and even the City have to deal with the litany of complaints that we hear. Parking, noise, and property standards by-laws can be enforced by the City, but the process is slow, there’s too few resources on the ground, and enforcement is ultimately up to the courts which means the City takes a graduated enforcement approach.

The courts are also the only recourse for neighbours whose property has been damaged by builders. This is an immense frustration. Telling residents to lawyer up when disputes arise over property lines or damage is not why anyone runs for office.

There needs to be a better mechanism to deal with infill issues. Too many problems are dealt with by too many levels of government and agencies.

Infill development in Stittsville may not be as intense as in Kitchissippi but it’s still happening out here. Just about every month at the Committee of Adjustment there’s an application to subdivide a big residential lot in order to squeeze in another house.  That’s only going to accelerate in the coming years.

It’s not just infill that’s a problem either. New housing development generates lots of complaints too: traffic, noise, dirt, blasting, etc.

I’m not sure an ombudsperson is the most effective way to deal with this issue.  He or she might play a useful role in mediation with GOHBA members, but I bet most of the problematic contractors and developers aren’t members of the group.

Still, good on Leiper for at least raising the issue and bringing attention to it. At the very least, it will spur discussion about how to create a fairer and clearer process to react to homeowner concerns. He’s asking residents to share their infill construction horror stories via his web site…

Councillor Jeff Leiper shared this example of this text message exchange: "Recently, a Champlain Park resident, just trying to get through the infill going in next to them, had an exchange with a builder to ask him to move, as previously agreed, the security fence off their property. The exchange by text is a follow-up to a voicemail left by the resident with the builder that was never answered. The exchange is beyond disrespectful, and I think crosses the line into abusiveness. I’ve had enough.
Councillor Jeff Leiper shared this example of a text message exchange between a resident and a builder: “Recently, a Champlain Park resident, just trying to get through the infill going in next to them, had an exchange with a builder to ask him to move, as previously agreed, the security fence off their property. The exchange by text is a follow-up to a voicemail left by the resident with the builder that was never answered. The exchange is beyond disrespectful, and I think crosses the line into abusiveness. I’ve had enough.

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