An end may be in sight in a two-year battle between the owner of The Surprise Bag Company and the Town of Carbonear, which wants to rid the town of one of its most conspicuous eyesores.
The 21-month row has raged from council to regional appeal boards and all the way to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The latest twist occurred early last month when the Supreme Court's Trial Division dismissed The Surprise Bag Company's appeal of an appeal board decision, which upheld an earlier order from the town council to the company to demolish its building at 234 Water Street, Carbonear.
Cal Powell, owner of the Suprise Bag Company told The Compass last week his appeal to the Supreme Court was "the only avenue open to me," after the appeal board ruled in favour of the town.
While he confirmed at the appeal board hearing last fall that he is the owner of the Suprise Bag Company, Powell said last week he is not the owner of the building, and therefore "there is no personal liability on my part." He said that was something he wanted to have clarified with the board and town.
It's been over a month since the Supreme Court rendered its decision, but Powell said he has not yet received anything official in writing on it.
Asked if he plans to demolish the building, he said he 's not sure how that would work, suggesting the town may undertake the demolition.
While council has ruled the building does not conform to its heritage district and has deemed it "unfit for human habitation," Powell said: "we're still being invoiced for taxes on it at full value of the property."
The Compass also contacted Sam Slade, but the mayor preferred to reserve comment on council's next move until town administrator Cynthia Davis returns from vacation this week and council has had a chance to discuss all its options.
Located at the west end of Water Street at the entrance to the downtown core, the building is considered an eyesore and a detriment to the town's heritage district.
It is also attached to the historic Rorke Stonehouse building, the town's only stone building and a provincial heritage structure. Built around 1860, the 150-year-old Georgian-style structure is also one of the oldest buildings in town.
Businessman Bruce Brennen is investing millions in renovating and restoring the stone structure, converting it into a high-end restaurant/pub and pizza parlor on the ground floor; sports/entertainment bar on the second level and banquet hall on the top story.
The derelict building was constructed in the late 1950s or early 60s. It is also located between two of the town's three museums - the Rorke Store across the street and the nearby Railway Station Museum. John Rorke & Sons used the building throughout the 70s as a shoe and clothing store, part of their enterprises, which also included the stone building. In the 80s and early '90s it housed Easy Save, part of a supermarket chain owned and operated by M.A. Powell Ltd.
The single-storey structure has fallen into disrepair. It's windows are boarded up, paint is scaling off the exterior, and graffiti can be seen along the storefront. The glass door to the building has also been smashed out, and replaced with board.
Brennen is among those who are anxious to see something done with the dilapidated structure. He was out of the province last week and unavailable for comment on the Supreme Court ruling.
Order to remove building
The town first ordered the Surprise Bag Company to remove the building from the property within 30 days, after deeming it unfit for human habitation. That initial order was issued Oct. 18, 2010.
A week later Cal Powell appealed the town's decision to the Eastern Regional Appeal Board.
At the hearing held in St. John's a year later (Oct. 24, 2011), Powell told the board, "the building is not used for human habitation but only used for limited storage."
The owner also questioned, "whether the condition of the building is the only issue behind council's decision to issue the demolition order." Powell preferred not to elaborate on that statement when he spoke with The Compass last week.
Town administrator Cynthia Davis reminded the board "the building is located in the downtown area which is zoned as heritage."
Based on the town's assessment of the building's condition, Council argued it did not meet the town's objectives for the area.
Referring to the relevant legislation, the town administrator maintained the town acted in accordance with both the Municipalities and Rural Planning acts.
A municipal council does have the authority, under the Municipalities Act, to order the removal of a building it deems to be in a dilapidated state or unfit for human habitation.
Acknowledging the town's authority to issue the demolition order, the appeal board also accepted the town's assertion "that the building is in a dilapidated condition and adversely affecting the amenities of the heritage area." The board confirmed council's original demolition order.