A new grow-op bylaw intended to send a serious message to landlords, property managers and homeowners has barely registered a peep since its inception.
But that promises to change this week.
Enacted on July 1, Richmond politicians had touted the property maintenance and repair bylaw as an indication they weren't going to tolerate the proliferation of marijuana grow-ops and more recently, methamphetamine labs. And that property owners and managers would be held accountable.
Yet despite the numerous grow-ops busted by the Richmond RCMP since Oct. 1-property owners were given a 90-day grace period to conduct their first inspection following the bylaw's July introduction-not a single fine has been levied by the city.
City spokesperson Kim Decker said the bylaw is intended to be both preventative and punitive, but to date nobody has been hit with a hefty bill.
But Mayor Malcolm Brodie said that will change by week's end. He said there have been seven busts of grow ops since Oct. 1, and those property owners will be billed under the bylaw.
Those busts have been of average size, Brodie said, and the property owners may be on the hook for $1,000 to $3,000. Homeowners will be billed by mail, and if they don't pay, they will find the amount added later to their property taxes.
While Brodie said it will be challenging to compile the costs associated with busts, that work will need to be done in order for the bylaw to act as a deterrent as well as a reminder to the community of the dangers associated with grow ops.
"We feel it's an important step in taking action and we feel most serious about it, I can tell you."
Coun. Kiichi Kumagai said he will insist that the city vigorously pursue cost recovery.
"It is a serious message to the landlords," Kumagai said.
Coun. Linda Barnes, chair of the city's community safety committee, agreed.
Following the initial public awareness effort, which has now passed, Barnes said the city will get tough.
"After the three months, I'm serious and I expect that bylaw to be enforced. We mean business."
Under the bylaw, property owners can be pursued for "all direct and indirect costs" incurred by Richmond Fire-Rescue, the Richmond RCMP, the city's business licensing and building approval departments, as well as costs for dismantling, removal, clean up, transportation and storage as well as disposal of equipment, substances, materials and other paraphernalia.
Barnes said it's her understanding that the delay in assessing fines is the result of staff wanting to ensure "all their ducks are in a row" before proceeding with legal action.
Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said that in order for the bylaw to be preventative, it needs to be enforced, which means it must be punitive.
"It is our hope this bylaw would be enforced whenever possible, when factors dictate it can be enforced."
Thiessen said police and the city continue to work closely together on this endeavour.
He said the two meth labs busted on No. 5 Road and Steveston Highway in September are two of the primary targets.
Efforts are underway to determine all the costs associated with that bust, which Thiessen estimated will easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As an indication of the steep costs for drug investigations, Thiessen gave a couple of examples. The protective suits worn by the firefighters and members of the RCMP's meth lab people cost between $700 and $800 each, and 100 suits were used during those two massive September busts. Some $6,000 worth of protective gloves were needed, he said.
All of the agencies involved in the investigation have been asked by the city to submit their costs, for such things as wages, Thiessen said.
Meanwhile, the community continues to assist police in their war on grow ops, he noted.
Earlier this month, neighbours helped the RCMP uncover a grow-op in a brand new townhouse complex at the 10000 block of Odlin Road. On Nov. 3, the city's green team found 140 plants inside the unit.
"The early location and dismantling of this grow operation was due to the diligence of the complex residents and their concern for their community," Thiessen said.