LANGHAM -- The mayor of Langham says a man who is facing an order to vacate his home due to zoning issues knew he couldn’t live there.

“Before he bought the property, he talked to the town ahead of time and he knew that it was zoned industrial and that it was not to be used as a residence,” mayor John Hildebrand said. 

Menno Zacharias said he bought the house on Baxter Street in early 2018 and moved into it in November of that year with the intention of living there and running part of his masonry business out of it. 

Before making the purchase, he said he was aware that the property was zoned industrial, but didn’t know he couldn’t reside there. 

“I just want to be very clear that not the bank nor the real estate people or the town ever suggested that I could not live there,” Zacharias told CTV News in a phone interview. 

“Do you really think that I would invest $250,000 and countless, countless hours of time and effort if I felt that I could not live there? Absolutely not.” 

The home, originally built in 1983, was used as a residence for about 30 years and was zoned industrial, making it legal non-conforming. 

However, Hildebrand said the home can no longer be lived in because the property sat vacant for a number of years before Zacharias moved in. 

“While it was being lived in, it could continue to be used as a residence up until a few years ago when it was vacant and because it was vacant for more than a year — it’s always been zoned industrial and now that legal non-conforming use can no longer be used and it has to be used as an industrial use,” he said. 

The Town of Langham presented CTV News with a letter from Zacharias to town council dating back to November 2018. 

In the letter, he informs the council that he just moved into the location on Baxter Street as of Nov. 1, 2018. 

“This property is zoned Industrial. I’m aware that it is in conflict to the zoning bylaws,” the letter reads. 

Zacharias then goes on to say that he is in the process of selling his businesses and asks council to consider giving him a one-year grace period to decide whether he wants to apply for rezoning or use the property to operate his businesses. 

When asked about the letter, Zacharias said he sent it months after he bought the property and maintains that he had no prior knowledge that he couldn’t live there and only found out afterwards. 

“It was a request that I had made well after I purchased the property to say that yes, I am in the process of selling my business so whether I’m going to ask the town to change the zoning to residential or to discretionary use will kind of depend on what’s happening with the sale of my business.”

Zacharias said his request for a one-year grace period was denied by town council as they called it “unethical.” 

Since then, Zacharias said he has applied to have the property rezoned residential, which was denied. He said he appealed that decision but was denied again. Zacharias said he then applied for discretionary use which would allow him to run a business out of the house and live there at the same time but was denied. 

On July 16, Zacharias said he received a letter from the town ordering him to no longer reside in the property as of July 31 otherwise he would face a fine of $2,500 a day. 

Zacharias said he received another letter on July 23 saying his order to vacate has been extended to Aug. 31 and if he doesn’t comply, he could face a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment. 

“This whole thing is unbelievable to me,” he said. 

Zacharias said that date has been put on hold again because he is in the process of appealing the order to vacate date and is set to plead his case to the RM of Corman Park appeals board on Sept. 29. 

He said his hope is to get more time so that he can come to an agreement with town council. 

“Let’s meet and discuss it. That’s all we need to do. I’m certain that we can reach a compromise that can work for both of us if the council will simply agree to meet,” Zacharias said. 

“I’m not left any real options if they don’t compromise is any way, shape or form.” 

Zacharias said he is hopeful that the Nov. 9 municipal election will bring in some new town council members that could help his case. 

The town said Zacharias is still allowed to use the property for industrial purposes. 

“We’re not trying to take this land, buy this land. He’s going to continue to own it and he can use it as industrial use. There’s nothing against that. It’s just the living in it as a residence that is an issue,” Hildebrand said. 

“The town has been very patient that it has been this long. And nobody is taking any joy to this and it’s not personal. We really wish this didn’t happen. But bylaws are being enforced as they’re supposed to be.”