The owner of Port Alberni’s Squash and Billiards Club has until March of 2020 improve the outside of the building.
City council received a petition on Monday, Dec. 9 signed by 33 Alberni Valley residents stating that they find the Squash and Billiards Club on Third Avenue to be “unattractive and offensive to the community.” The building has been undergoing construction for years, and has been wrapped in Tyvek paper for several years. Petitioners asked for the owner of the building to “be ordered to improve the façade by a specific date.”
The registered owner is a numbered company, but the principal is Randy Brown. Brown had applied for and been approved for funding under the Façade Improvement Program to improve the appearance of the building, and Community Futures has extended the completion deadline to March 20, 2020.
City Clerk Davina Hartwell said on Monday that the Squash and Billiards Club is “relatively tidy” compared to some other buildings in the Uptown area. Some improvements have been made to the building over the past few days, as the Tyvek paper has been painted black.
“Staff is of the opinion that there are much higher priority buildings that require more immediate attention and that we should allow the time that Community Futures has given,” said Hartwell.
Brown, who was in the audience on Monday, said he is confident that he will be able to meet the March 20 deadline.
“We will be spending between $50,000 and $60,000 on the front of that building,” said Brown.
A number of councillors expressed disappointment in staff’s recommendation, but agreed to return to the issue after the March 20 deadline.
“It’s very discouraging when businesses on the Third Avenue corridor spend a lot of time and money and effort trying to improve their façades and beautify the area, and we have a façade like this that has been let go for so long,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard.
City CAO Tim Pley explained that the city’s nuisance designation is based on calls for service, rather than appearance, so the Squash Club would not be considered a nuisance. There are three other buildings in Port Alberni currently designated as nuisances: the Carlson Building, the former CJAV building on Upper Third Avenue and the Beaufort Hotel.
“[The Squash Club] isn’t creating as much of a nuisance to the community as those other buildings could if we were to turn our attention away from them,” he said. “I don’t disagree that this is a visual nuisance, it’s not a use nuisance, per se.”
The Harbourview Apartments, located across the street from the Squash Club, used to be considered a nuisance property, but the designation was removed because the calls for service decreased. Mayor Sharie Minions said on Monday that she would like to revisit this property.
“Our nuisance property bylaw did create some improvement for some time,” she said, but added that the building has “fallen back down” and is causing concerns for neighbours again. “I do think we need to start to explore what our options are as a municipality to deal with that building in a different way.”
The issue of the Squash and Billiards Club will be brought back to council after March 20.