A beloved community fixture in one of Richmond’s oldest neighbourhoods could soon be a thing of the past.
The “Burkeville haunted house” has caught the attention of the City of Richmond after someone in the tiny Sea Island community complained about homeowner Tim Jordan’s tented structures.
For 35 of the 39 years he’s lived in his detached Hudson Avenue home, Jordan has laid on the free Halloween entertainment for his neighbours and their kids.
But, following repeated complaints, believed to be from the same person, Jordan claimed he had until May 11 to remove the seven tents, which play host to decades of his dedication, such as a spiders’ lair, a demon daycare, mad scientist’s lab and an alien spacecraft.
“A (city) building inspector and plumbing and gas inspector came out about six weeks ago,” a sullen Jordan told the Richmond News on Monday.
“I was told that each one of my tents requires a permit. I didn’t know this, after 39 years of having the tents. Nobody complained until now.
“I realize now that I was unknowingly doing something against the bylaws, but I would think, after all this time making it a community event for free, a solution could be worked out.
“I’ve never had a safety issue, never had a cut finger or an insurance claim. This is my drug-free, mental health medicine for all the other stuff going on in my life. I dreamed of this for my retirement, working on it more often.”
By Tuesday morning, however, and after further discussion with a city building inspector, Jordan has been advised to make an application to the city's board of variance, to ask for a "variance of use" of his property, which would allow the tented structures to remain.
A City of Richmond spokesperson told the News, via email, that inspection staff hadn't given Jordan a definite time frame for compliance to the zoning bylaw and, instead, is "granting time for the owner to consider a variance application or potential modifications of the accessory buildings for consideration as play structures."
In terms of why, in 39 years, nothing has been said to Jordan about his structures, the spokesperson added that "complaint-driven notification is often required. The city’s course of action for non-compliant issues is to first educate, then allow time (for) compliance."
Jordan understands a complaint came in last Halloween about his tents and the general, unsightly state of his yard but, because it was Halloween, he thinks it wasn’t acted on.
Continued complaints this spring, however, brought the authorities to his door six weeks ago, firstly with a request to clean up his yard.
“I admit, I let the yard go. It was my wife’s health and my dad and brother both passed away recently,” explained Jordan, who has had to give up his catering business of 40 years to care for his wife.
“I had to clean out my parent’s house in Seafair, where there was 60 years’ worth of stuff. My wife’s health got worse and I became her full-time caregiver. The yard became a low priority.
“But it’s cleaned up a bit now and (the yard) has passed an inspection.”
Issues with fire safety were apparently highlighted by the city’s building inspector and Jordan said he’s prepared to put in an expensive sprinkler system if need be.
“I’m not aware of new neighbours, so I’ve no idea who complained. No one has come to me personally,” he added
“On the Burkeville Facebook page, there has been overwhelming support. Some have offered to help me store the displays, but I don’t think it’s practical to do so. Storage is very expensive. I’m still hoping for a solution with the city.
“I started this for my own reasons; I just wanted to celebrate Halloween in my own little way and it grew and grew. It’s really an institution here in Burkeville.
“But it won’t be going without a little bit of a fight. If people start shoving me around a bit too much, I’m going to start shoving back.”