A Curtis Road couple who replaced a staircase installed by previous homeowners in 1971 have landed themselves in a mess with the regional district.
Lisa and John Zuk — who purchased their Area B property about 12 years ago — repaired the 26 stairs several times but finally tore them down and built new ones in 2012.
They did so without without a development or building permit, which prompted the CVRD to initiate bylaw compliance.
“We did not know we required a permit, so we built them without a permit,” Lisa said, noting they had also installed rip rap on their beach.
In November, Lisa said they struck a deal with the CVRD, whereby the couple could keep the rip rap but remove the roof of a pergola along with the stairs. A month later, Lisa said the CVRD’s lawyer filed a civil claim against them. The district would not comment on the last statement.
“Our interest is getting them into compliance with the bylaws that every other taxpayer has to comply with,” said Alana Mullaly, manager of planning services. “It does make for a challenging process when you do work without permits and then have to go back and remedy.”
The staircase came to the district’s attention because it received a complaint that construction materials had been dumped on the beach. The materials have been cleared from the area.
After spending about $7,500 to repair the stairs on various occasions, Lisa said she and John spent another $75,000 on reports, surveys and legal fees.
They also had to pay a $4,500 security deposit to the district, part of which will be held back.
“It’s been a hard and arduous battle with them,” Lisa said. “It’s been a nightmare. It’s so frustrating. We just want it to go away.”
The purpose of the deposit is to ensure the CVRD can correct any damage if work is not undertaken properly.
“As a regular function of all of our development permits, we take a security deposit,” Mullaly said. “That’s not unique to the Zuks, that’s a standard requirement. It’s certainly not a fine. It’s wholly refundable if the work is done the way that the permit spells out.”
She notes the couple hired a consulting biologist to make recommendations, including a landscaping plan.
“We hold back a portion of the money,” Mullaly said. “The idea is to hold it for a full growing season. At the end of that period, then they get that money back.”