© Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt
Owner Robert Jay enjoys the vista of the marina and waterfront in Montague from the balcony of his new Riverhouse Inn expected to open soon in the heart of Montague.
When it comes to making sure construction projects are following all the rules, small communities don’t have the necessary resources, says an official with the Town of Montague.
Andrew Daggett, Montague’s chief administrative officer, said the town doesn’t have the expertise on staff to verify that every rule is being followed and it’s not something unique to his town.
“It’s a gap that’s kind of there and it probably needs to be sealed up,” he said.
Daggett was responding to questions about a recent court case that saw Kevan MacLean, who runs Southern Kings Construction, plead guilty last month to a violation of the Architects Act.
The act required the use of an architect in the design of the Riverhouse Inn he was building in Montague and MacLean was ordered to pay a $2,575 fine.
When someone submits plans for a development in Montague, the town checks them to make sure they conform to bylaws, such as height restrictions, setbacks and proper zoning.
But unlike some of the province’s biggest municipalities, Montague doesn’t do building inspections or check plans for anything other than bylaw issues.
Daggett said that unlike some of the other municipalities there is not a lot of development going on in Montague.
“There isn’t enough work to keep somebody on staff,” he said.
Bill Chandler, a spokesman for the Architects Association of P.E.I., said the association’s decision to proceed with the charge against MacLean was because it was a safety issue and because it was a significant public building, which required the use of an architect.
“Public safety, public safety, public safety.”
There have been violations of the Architects Act in the past, but Chandler said those were all settled out of court.
Chandler said the Architects Act provides the public with a level of protection because architects are not only involved in a building’s design, but they also follow the construction process.
“In this case it is a multi-million dollar public building and typically any time you build a building that has people sleeping in it there’s more safety concerns when people are not conscious,” he said.
In the case of the inn’s drawings, Chandler said there were some concerns about the drawings’ not conforming to the Life Safety Code.
That code deals with building features that minimize the danger from fire, including smoke, heat and toxic gases.
Chandler said when a drawing has an architect’s stamp on it, smaller municipalities can be assured there are professionals involved, they are designed to code requirements and inspections will be done.
“For a town to say we don’t have the resources to inspect, well if you had of followed the requirements of the Architects Act and required professionals, you’re almost ensuring that someone is inspecting that it is being designed to code,” he said.
MacLean said there are no safety concerns when an architect isn’t used as long as a contractor knows what they are doing.
Southern Kings Construction has been in operation for about 25 years and has worked on several large projects, including the Montague Sobeys, the Wyman’s blueberry plant in West St. Peters and the UPEI School of Nursing.
MacLean also said decisions were made in consultation with the building’s owner and there were reasons for not using an architect.
“It’s not that anybody’s trying to screw the rules,” he said.
When it comes to future projects, MacLean said the need to hire an architect will slow them down and add to the costs.
“It’s a serious curtail,” he said.
As for the inn’s construction, MacLean said there was a work slowdown, but it had nothing to do with the charge under the Architects Act.
MacLean said he wasn’t happy with the process that led to the town approving the plans
“I think the town did everything in their best interest,” he said.
An attempt to connect the Riverhouse Inn’s owner Robert Jay was unsuccessful.