Regional district directors are vying against the provincial government’s request to take hold of the B.C. building code.
A proposal came forward Tuesday evening at the regular Regional District of Nanaimo meeting asking board members to consider implementing a uniform B.C. building code, but director Bill Veenhof criticized the motion insisting it “erodes regional district authority” and “risks innovation and construction.”
Most directors rallied behind Veenhof and voted to send a letter to UBCM expressing their concerns over centralizing authority under the provincial government.
An RDN report stated the proposed changes would see the province as “the sole authority to set building standards” in an effort to “simplify construction sector compliance.”
“What it means is that essentially regional district building inspectors will be working for the province although we (regional districts) pay for it but they (building inspectors) will be swinging to the call of the provincial building code,” explained Veenhof, who represents the Deep Bay/Bowser region.
Veenhof said his “biggest concern” is in the case local government wanted to apply an alternative building method that doesn’t align with the B.C. building code they would “have to go on bended knee to the province.”
He cited frustration in dealing with the provincial government during the controversial seaweed harvest in Deep Bay.
“In terms of provincial willingness to accept responsibility and be responsible (for the seaweed harvest) it’s about zero and I’d much rather have it the way it is where we can be the authors of our own destiny to a certain degree within the building code regime.”
Director Julian Fell, who represents Coombs/Errington, echoed Veenhof’s sentiments. “The province will take control of all the options,” said Fell. “It is my experience with big bureaucracy that they move at the speed of glaciers — I’d like to see some flexibility (for local government) retained.”
However, town coun. Dave Willie expression optimism over the proposed changes.
“It would be great if they (building inspectors) had a common set of rules to share,” said Willie, noting the town has had a difficult time keeping their building inspector. “I think it’s a huge plus to enter into discussions of how to get there.”
Willie said he believes this could bring the cost of construction down.
Currently, the Local Government Act gives municipalities the power to regulate construction matters by adopting building bylaws and other regulations. According to the RDN report this has resulted in building code inconsistencies within and between local government jurisdictions.
The proposal from the province states: “through a uniform building code the province would take a stronger leadership role.”
According to the report over the past 25 years the B.C. building code has been subject to several provincial reviews. This proposal comes out of recent consultations between the province, local governments, professional bodies and the construction sector. In the case this proposal does go through, a two-year transition period has been suggested by the province to give local governments time to amend their bylaws to remove technical building requirements that conflict with the B.C. building code.