An uphill battle in the Town of Carbonear to have a building in the downtown area torn down has reached a boiling point for some town councillors.
In 2008, a previous council voted 7-0 in favour of placing a demolition order on the Surprise Bag Co. building (former Easy Save) owned by Cal Powell located at 234 Water Street. Now, six years later, the building still stands, but the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC), a government-funded organization, has a lien on the property.
The issue has been held up in court over the years, but many are saying it has been going on long enough.
The current council has been looking for a solution, and its members displayed some frustration at the May 20 regular meeting. Some progress was made, and some steps are being taken to proceed with demolition.
Councillors speak out
The building has been referred to as a pink and blue eyesore, unfit for the downtown historic district. And the only solution appears to be the town taking on the demolition itself.
Coun. David Kennedy voiced his concerns with that plan.
“The town could spend money to clean a parcel of land and get nothing back, which currently is not something that should be entertained,” Kennedy explained. “To have limited info back from CBDC and to be given a run around is not good enough.”
The Trinity Conception chapter of CBDC declined an interview with The Compass due to “privacy and confidential matters.”
Deputy Mayor Frank Butt has been vocal against the issue, even before joining council last September. He is an advocate for preserving the historic essence of the downtown area and noted in the meeting it needs to be dealt with immediately.
“This has been going on now for almost a decade, and something has to be done,” Butt stated. “It’s costing us money to have it there.”
Butt was referring to legal costs, which continue to accumulate every time the town’s lawyer is contacted on the issue.
Kennedy was concerned about the potential cost, because an assessment hasn’t been completed on the building. If there are hazardous materials inside, the cost could inflate.
“The town had (the) court uphold a demolition order, which can't be followed through on, yet,” Kennedy explained. “The town can demolish the building, but may end up footing the cost, which may rise significantly depending on the composition of the material used in its construction.”
Plans rolling out
Butt put forward a motion to go ahead with demolition, inspection and pest control of the building and selling the property.
Everyone was on board with the principle of the motion, but the cost was something that led to its defeat with a 4-3 vote.
“I know that it has been frustrating, but I think we have to be prudent in how we do this, and don’t incur costs that we shouldn’t be taking on as taxpayers, or as council who represents taxpayers,” Coun. Ray Noel said.
Kennedy didn’t like the idea of spending a significant amount of taxpayers' money when it shouldn’t be the town’s responsibility to pay for it.
“(The cost is) not something that we as a town can incur, and I think it’s the responsibility of CBDC and whoever owns it,” he asserted. “The thing that disturbs me is my tax dollars are going in to pay (CBDC employees) to run this show, whatever they’re running. And they’re useless at it.”
Kennedy noted CBDC has been rumoured to have taken ownership of the building.
“It has been said that CBDC has a judgment through the courts that gives them ownership of the building. Yet, they appear like they will not take the judgment (since) they will be responsible for a derelict building within a town boundary.”
The windows have been smashed and are boarded up, the siding is faded and many residents in Carbonear have been calling on council to remove it.
During the meeting, it was noted town employees or councillors can’t just access the property. But The Compass has learned a hazardous assessment company can be granted entrance to the building. And that is the next step.
Director of Public Works Brian O’Grady acknowledged he was hoping to begin next week. The only concern was how anyone could enter the building without a key.
The solution is the owner will be advised in a letter from the town of the dates the building will be assessed. If the owner won’t comply, the company will gain access through other means.
“If he doesn’t comply, we get a locksmith to cut the locks off and put them back on after,” Kennedy explained.
Council hopes to begin the process right away, with follow-ups in the coming weeks.
“It’s alright to have a timeline on this,” Coun. Ed Goff explained.