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Harbour Grace seeks minister's approval to expropriate Ridley Offices

Andrew Robinson/The Compass<br />The Ridley Offices building at Point of Beach in Harbour Grace is 177 years old.<br /><br />
Andrew Robinson/The Compass<br />The Ridley Offices building at Point of Beach in Harbour Grace is 177 years old.<br /><br />

HARBOUR GRACE — The Town of Harbour Grace is seeking approval from the minister of Municipal Affairs to expropriate one of the community's oldest buildings.

Ridley Offices, located on Beach Hill, was built in 1838. Local merchant Thomas Ridley used the stone structure for business matters, and also built Ridley Hall on Water Street. The latter historic property was severely damaged by fire in 2003.

Council first passed a motion in August of 2015 to explore the expropriation process for Ridley Offices. A few months later, an offer was made to owner Rhonda Parsons to purchase the building, but it was rejected.

At last Wednesday's council meeting, Coun. Hayward Blake introduced a new motion to take the next step and seek approval from Municipal Affairs.

"We would expropriate it as a significant piece of historical property in the Town of Harbour Grace and to ensure that its integrity as a historical property is maintained," he said. "It would be best suited to be within the town's infrastructure."

Blake noted with the town's heritage district already in place and formally recognized, there are funding opportunities that could benefit the Beach Hill property. Ridley Offices is a Registered Heritage Structure.

While getting approval from the minister's office is part of the process, doing so would not finalize expropriation. This point was made after Coun. Kathy Tetford raised concerns about the possible cost of taking responsibility for Ridley Offices.

"I can understand the reasoning behind purchasing the building, but I think before we step forward and purchase the building, we need to seek some facts on what even a ballpark figure would be to attain it … but also how much repair has to be done to the building," she said. "As far as I understand, there's a lot of work that has to be done on the building."

Town CAO Michael Saccary said the town could still withdraw from the process at any time moving forward if it's found expropriating the property isn't in its best interest.

"If the town is not comfortable with the situation that they developed as far as finically and that goes and are unable to find other avenues in which to be able to support it, then the town can withdraw its expropriation (request) at any time," he said.

Saccary said a committee put in place by the minister would review the proposal, evaluate it and come back to the town.

Tetford was the lone council member to vote against the motion last Wednesday.

SEE RELATED:

'Harbour Grace council reiterates intention to protect Ridley Offices'

'Ridley Offices owner worried about historic property's future'

Relations between the town and the owner of Ridley Offices, Rhonda Parsons, have been contentious at times. She's questioned why the town recognizes Ridley Offices as a commercial property when the Municipal Assessment Agency considers it a residential one. Attempts by Parsons to obtain a permit from the town to offer public tours of the property were denied.

Parsons is also critical of the Marine Industrial Park proposal and has expressed concerns about activity at Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises compromising the structural integrity of her property.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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