City of Powell River council has taken official action to address years of public complaints about the former Inn at Westview building.
On Thursday, April 6, council voted unanimously to declare the derelict building, located next to Powell River Town Centre Mall, a nuisance and public safety hazard. The April 6 order compels the building’s owners to tear it down.
“I was hoping we would never have to get to this point,” said councillor Maggie Hathaway at the meeting. “Even though we are going down this road, I’m still really hopeful the owners will cooperate and that we can come to some solution for this problem that’s been in the community way too long.”
Sections 73 and 74 of the BC Community Charter empower local governments to compel property owners to clean up properties if they are deemed to be so run down or falling apart that they are offensive, or be demolished if they create a public safety hazard.
“This starts a long-overdue process,” said councillor Jim Palm at the meeting. “It’s time to move this forward.”
The city is requiring building owner Seaboard Hotels to apply for a demolition permit to take down the building within 15 days of receiving the order.
The city is giving Seaboard until Wednesday, May 31, to leave the former location of the building level and covered with gravel.
If the building owners do not comply with the order, the city may undertake the demolition and recover the cost from the building owners.
Property-management company American Investments’ owner Jack Barr, who is the caretaker for the building, said in an email to council that he has found a structural engineer willing to examine the building.
Last December, WorkSafeBC ordered the building sealed until a qualified structural engineer could be brought in to assess the integrity of the structure.
After the meeting, Barr said American Investments is waiting for the engineer’s report and will update the city with any new information about the status of the building.
“It’ll either say the building is safe to go in or it isn’t, or you need to spend this much money to fix it up so you can tear it down,” he said. “I’ll keep proceeding to do what I can do, but I can only move so fast.”
Members of the public attending Thursday night’s meeting were concerned about who would ultimately foot the demolition bill.
During question period, local business owner Telis Savvaidis asked if council could guarantee tax dollars would not be used to demolish the derelict building.
Hathaway responded that council cannot guarantee taxpayers will not be responsible for demolition costs.
“We are starting a process that we hope is successful,” she said. “It’s a difficult situation that we’ll have to weigh out.”
It is possible the city can be put in a position where there is no way to recover costs of the demolition from the owners, said Hathaway.
“I’ll be straight upfront,” she said. “It could happen.”
Councillor Russell Brewer said council needed to initiate the process in order to come up with accurate numbers it can use to base decisions on.
“You can be clear that if it comes back and the estimates are a million bucks, I’m not going to be willing to buck up to do that,” said Brewer.
After the meeting, Barr said the building poses its owners with a considerable dilemma.
“You have potential costs of up to a million dollars on a piece of property the city had appraised at $180,000,” he said. “It is quite a predicament.”