A stop-work order on the Kingsway Pub in Port Alberni has been lifted by the city, but WorkSafeBC is still waiting for a detailed risk assessment before work can take place.
The Kingsway Hotel and Pub was purchased back in 2018 by Helen Poon—now a councillor for the City of Port Alberni. Renovations started taking place, with the hotel portion of the building transformed into apartments.
However, in February of this year, the city’s bylaw services department received a complaint regarding unpermitted renovations at the Kingsway Pub and in April the city issued a stop-work order for the building.
Port Alberni resident Neil Anderson first brought the issue to the City’s attention after taking notice of some “building code irregularities” and confirmed with city hall that no permits or inspections had been taken out on the project. Anderson said he has been trying to get answers to his questions for two months.
“Due to the sensitivity of this matter I expressed my hope of resolving this in a low profiled manner,” Anderson wrote in a letter to city council. “Unfortunately, I was unable to do this.”
“The work stoppage should have happened two months ago,” he said in a later interview.
During a presentation to city council on Tuesday, April 14, city planner Katelyn McDougall admitted that there have been some “unanticipated delays” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the last few months, she said, city staff have been working with Poon to identify what work is being done and what permits will be required.
(Poon recused herself during this portion of the online meeting. She did not participate in the discussion, and rejoined the meeting once McDougall’s presentation and ensuing discussion was finished.)
Although Poon had submitted a building permit application on April 3 for replacing/altering a plumbing system, renovation of suites and structural alterations, city staff were concerned about potential renovations ongoing while the application was being reviewed.
“The city had received a further complaint about renovations on site,” explained City CAO Tim Pley. “Staff were concerned that renovations were still ongoing.” A Do Not Occupy order was also issued by the city, but this only applied to the ground floor.
“It was never intended to affect anybody living upstairs,” said Pley. “We were concerned about the structural aspect of the renovations on the main floor.”
As of Thursday, April 23, the city’s orders have been lifted. Poon said on Monday, April 27 that she has retained Brad West of McGill Engineering to supervise the project and that she is committed to following the city’s processes.
“Not all renovations require permits,” she said. “Today I am aware of the process, and I am committed to full compliance.”
Pley confirmed that the city orders were lifted and a building permit has now been issued.
“[Poon] gave us satisfaction that public safety was going to be protected,” said Pley.
However, WorkSafeBC also issued a stop-work order on April 20 concerning hazardous materials in the building, and this order is still in place. According to WorkSafeBC documents, an inspection took place inside the building on March 25, after which Poon was told that a hazardous material survey was needed. On that date, Poon stated that all interior renovation type work had been completed.
Further construction activity was observed during another WorkSafeBC inspection on April 20. A hazardous materials survey was still not present.
“Current conditions may expose workers to hazardous materials including asbestos and lead,” said WorkSafeBC.
“The board has reasonable grounds for believing that the work task(s) and/or condition(s) described above presents a high risk of serious injury, serious illness, or death to a worker.”
The order will not be lifted until a few conditions have been met, including a detailed risk assessment, according to the inspection report.