Kelowna business owner suing city to get his business licence back

Lawsuit to get licence back

All Martin Weiss wants is the ability to do business in the City of Kelowna as he, and his father before him, had done for more than 50 years.

He's taking the city to court in order to do just that.

Weiss, owner of M.Weiss Masonry, filed papers in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver earlier this month against the city and business licensing manager Greg Wise.

The suit claims Weiss' business licence was terminated without notice, and he was refused a 2021 business licence without cause.

It further states Wise did not have the "statutory or delegated authority" to cancel, or refuse to renew, a valid business licence.

Weiss told Castanet News the decision has put several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of signed contracts, some more than a year old, in jeopardy.

He acknowledges the business at 3990 Swamp Road is on farm land within the Agricultural Land Reserve, but tells Castanet he only stores his work vehicles and does paperwork on the property. He says he doesn't store materials used in the business on site.

Weiss further says he still farms the the property, using it mostly for hay production.

In the court filing, Weiss says the city approached him in 2015 about purchasing four acres of the 14 acre property for "fish enhancement" purposes along Mission Creek. That property was used as part of a larger, $1.2 million restoration project on the creek.

Documents indicated instead of the fish enhancement work, the city built a dyke about eight to 10 feet high, adjacent to and abutting his northern property line.

Shortly afterwards, Weiss built a berm on his property to protect the farm, and provide some privacy.

It's around that time, he says, issues with the city began to crop up.

There were references to bylaw notices issued at the end of 2016 for operating contrary to licensing bylaws and causing a "visual nuisance to the neighbourhood" contrary to the unsightly premises bylaw.

He was told his licence was under review, and that he must discontinue outdoor business activity, clean up the property and relocate the business to a different zone.

During a face-to-face meeting in 2018, the court filing alleges Weiss was told the tickets should not have been issued, the offence notices would be "put on hold," and the city would look into "how the matter had escalated to fines.'

Without hearing more, documents indicate Weiss was notified by mail in December of last year that his 2021 licence would not be renewed.

The reason given in a subsequent letter stated in part, "the business does not meet licensing requirements for a home-based business minor licence category for which the business licence has been previously issued as a contractor-bricklayer HBB minor."

The property was also under enforcement action.

The city, in a letter to Weiss's counsel, contended it was within its right to refuse the licence, and that Mr. Weiss was able to petition city council to have the matter reconsidered.

The court filing also references documents reviewed under the Freedom of Information Act, in which the businesses licence was "put on hold for 2021 renewal," on Aug. 31 of last year. Weiss claims he was never advised of that decision at that time.

Weiss is asking the city simply to reissue him his business licence. He says he is willing to pay the $25 fee.

In a conversation with Castanet, Weiss says he is surprised by the action taken by the city, stating he has undertaken a number of masonry contracts for the city over the years.

The city has not yet responded to the allegations in court. None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven.

Calls to City Hall for comment have not yet been returned.

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