Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Homeowners decry possible demolition

Want tighter rules amid permit flap

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A local family wants the City of Winnipeg to tighten its inspection rules following revelations their brand-new William Whyte home could be demolished due to a problem with the contractor's building permit.

Arnel Mercado purchased a home at 695 Pritchard Ave. from Hollywood Homes Inc. last March and moved in with his wife and son. Mercado said he thought there were no issues with the home until he decided to renovate the basement in November.

When he applied for a permit to renovate, Mercado said, a city inspector told him the home never had a final inspection of its construction.

In late December, the city revoked Hollywood Homes Inc.'s building permits for Mercado's home, in addition to two other properties on Bowman Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard after officials discovered submitted drawings "have been deliberately altered" to indicate they were approved by an engineer.

The city has ordered Hollywood Homes to obtain a new building permit for all three properties, or alternatively, obtain a permit to demolish all construction.

If Hollywood Homes fails to comply, the City of Winnipeg will bring the properties into compliance, which may include demolishing them. Two of the properties -- including Mercado's Pritchard Avenue home -- are currently occupied by families.

Last week, Hollywood Homes Inc. owner Dave Haner alleged he purchased the blueprints with a false engineering seal from a city building inspector.

"He should not have been given any permits to build. What's our protection as the buyer?" Mercado said. "I'm very concerned, because what will I do after this if it's to be demolished? We will be moving again."

On Tuesday, council's property committee delayed Haner's appeal of the city orders pending an investigation into allegations he bought falsified blueprints from a city building inspector.

City property director Barry Thorgrimson said the department wants to do a complete review to find out what happened. Thorgrimson said he's not aware of any past instances in which Winnipeg has dealt with falsified engineering reports, noting it is a serious matter.

Thorgrimson said the review will examine the structural integrity of the homes to ensure they are not in jeopardy, the legal aspects of the engineering seal and the code of conduct of employees.

"We take it very seriously and we're certainly not going to jump to any conclusions, but we'll go through complete due diligence and act appropriately," he said, declining to discuss personnel issues publicly.

Last year, Winnipeg introduced a new approval process to speed up the time it takes to get a building permit. The new strategy puts more onus on property owners and commercial builders to ensure their designs meet building-code requirements.

While some designs -- such as hospitals and schools -- will undergo more scrutiny, projects such as single-family homes or strip malls can be approved if architects or engineers submit certificates stating the plans are up to code.

The city uses a computer program to randomly select which projects get detailed reviews, and developers or homebuilders who do not have a good record for code compliance will receive more reviews than those with good records.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 0

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Updated on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM CST: replaces photo

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