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City orders derelict buildings torn down
TERRACE CITY council has given owners of three derelict buildings on Little Ave. 60 days to tear them down and clean up the yards or the city will do it for them and send them the bill for the work.
Two of the properties contain Second World War-era military housing and the third was once a hospital.
The structures at 4520 Little Ave. owned by Sandra and Wayne Kirby, 4440 Little Ave. by Lloyd Wittkowski and 4450 Little Ave. by the estate of Bertha Vogel have been the subject of complaints and warnings by public officials of safety, health and nuisance hazards for years.
The decisions reached by council Nov. 26 followed months of closed door sessions about what action to take.
City officials prepared nearly 100 pages of information and photos for council to consider in reaching the three decisions.
Little Ave., a graveled section of road barely one lane wide and full of potholes, is located just east of the arena and aquatic centre and resembles more of a back lane than a city street.
In the case of the Wittkowski property, city records indicate complaints going back to 1990. He didn't acquire the property until the mid 2000s.
“(There’s) a long history of issues on this property,” noted city official David Block.
“The ground has pushed in a wall of the crawl space,” said an excerpt of one report on the structure. “Some of the strong smell in there is a result of (cats) presence and indicates an unsanitary situation.”
No plumbing or heating is available in the building, electricity only services one light, stairs and landings are in poor and dangerous condition and the foundation has been affected by rot, said the report.
“If fire were to spread it would spread rapidly and potentially be life endangering,” said Block to council. “Reconstruction would not make viable sense.”
After a round of letters demanding action from the city late this summer Wittkowski indicated he would tear down at least part of the building by now. It still stands.
The next property discussed was 4450 Little Ave., owned by Bertha Vogel who is now deceased with George Vogel as the manager and occupier of her estate.
The complaint history on this property dates back to 1991 with city records showing cleanliness and building safety issues. A real estate for sale sign has now been placed on the building.
A most recent review of the property showed substantial fire hazards, and after issuing a letter to Vogel this summer demanding that he clean up the property and yard, some of the work promised did not materialize.
For instance, Vogel said he would clean up the yard and cut grass by Sept. 8, remove plywood and replace glass and windows by Sept. 15, complete house scraping and paint preparation by Sept. 22 and completion of painting of home by Sept. 29.
Severe structural issues were also recently noted by building inspectors.
The last property reviewed by council was 4520 Little Ave., which was Terrace’s first hospital, and is now owned by Mike and Sandra Kirby.
Complaints about this property date back to 1996 when a fire chief reported that “if not already, this building will pose a serious life safety concern.”
Reports from a more recent site inspection show the building is in a state of disrepair like the others.
“There are signs of structural issues evident … the interior of the building is very beat up … plumbing fixtures have been removed … ceilings are damaged and in some places removed … paint is peeling … due to humidity and lack of heat mold is present,” said a city report.
Fire hazard currently pose risk to life and neighbouring properties.
After a letter from the city earlier this year demanding action be taken, Wayne Kirby noted he intends to sell the property and secure the building or tear it down.
But efforts to clean up the site have been slow moving, said Block, noting a demolition permit was taken out for an eastern portion of the building in February.
While a substantial amount of the building has be torn down, some of it still stands, and demolition permits expire after 90 days, he explained.
He added that council had more options for remedial action to be taken for this property, including that the city order the building be maintained and secured or that staff continue to seek voluntary compliance from the owners.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood added that as the owners had already started to demolish a portion of the building, he thinks it best the city order the rest to be boarded and secured.
But councillor Marylin Davies pointed out owners had passed the 90-day mark, which means plenty of time for that to complete has passed.
"This implies value and future use," said councillor Brian Downie.
“I just don’t see the value in going through this over and over,” added councilor James Cordeiro. “These properties have been derelict for years.”
In the end, council chose to treat all three buildings equally by ordering demolition within sixty days along with other property maintenance orders.
Councillor Stacey Tyers left for two out of three votes due to conflict of interest.
Each owner can appeal the order within 14 days of notice.