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Feeling the heat of development in Kamloops

A Juniper Ridge resident and a city councillor call for changes to city construction rules

Seventy-six-year-old Tony Brumell has put in countless hours over more than 40 years, fine-tuning his one-of-a-kind home on Skeena Drive in Juniper Ridge.

Brumell has weaved Douglas Fir to create a unique wooden ceiling, built stained-glass cabinets and enshrined real leaves into a natural feature wall. His home could be a museum, with antiques in every corner, mementos from past advocacy campaigns (“Stop Ajax” and “Save the Coquihalla”) and odds and ends he plans to repurpose one day for something or another.

Lately, however, Brumell’s pride and joy has been impacted by a new house under construction next door.

“This has basically destroyed my quality of living here,” he told KTW.

The western wall under construction towers over Brumell’s front yard. He said heat is reflecting off of it and creating an oven effect on his property. He put a thermometer outside to show the area is hotter than air temperature. In addition, Brumell said, the close proximity of the construction to his home has resulted in lost privacy.

Brumell broached the issue with a pair of city councillors. However, it appears the structure has been built within city development rules, prompting questions about whether local regulations should go further to prevent heat pockets amidst discussions about climate change adaptation and how close is too close in an era of infill.

Coun. Denis Walsh toured Brumell’s property and said he spoke to the city’s development director and CAO, both of whom informed him no legislative tools could be administered to prevent the construction, which is underway.

“He’s following the rules, let’s put it that way,” Walsh said. “It’s unfortunate that the rules allow it.”

Brumell said the three-storey home is being built five feet from the property line at the closest point. The city’s development director, Marvin Kwiatkowski, said residential zoning allows minimum side-yard setbacks of 1.5 metres, which equates to five feet. Walsh said it is as tight as possible, but Kwiatkowski said the rule has been in place for a long time and is standard in other communities.

The city, meanwhile, has no rules in place preventing construction that creates a hotter environment. Kwiatkowski pointed to asphalt and parking lots, which generally retain heat.

“That would be something totally different, new,” Kwiatkowski said when asked if development rules protect against heat.

Brumell said it should be considered, given last year’s heat dome and new protective initiatives underway. Last summer, more than 600 people died of heat-related causes in British Columbia during a historic heat wave, including 17 people in Kamloops and the surrounding area.

Brumell has created a sign and posted it on the front door of his home, It states: “I’m not dead yet! But the guy with the wall and the City of Kamloops seem to be trying.”

“The city is saying, ‘Hey, we’re trying to protect our senior citizens against the heat,” Brumell told KTW. “I’m sorry, that doesn’t really cut it. They have these so-called heat cooling centres.”

As it stands, the neighbouring property owner is technically doing nothing wrong, despite the negative impacts on Brumell.

Walsh said single-family home development should require consultation with neighbours in order to mitigate such issues.

“We obviously need housing, but it should be smart growth — not panic growth,” Walsh said.

— Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Tony Brumell as Tony Brummel.