City of Powell River council upheld its previous remediation order for the former Inn at Westview building at its meeting on Thursday, May 4, after the building’s owners asked for the decision to be reconsidered.
Last month council issued an order to the property owner, Seaboard Hotels, to tear down the dilapidated building at 7050 Alberni Street, a structure council deemed a public safety hazard and nuisance. WorkSafeBC ordered the building closed last November after concerns were raised about the safety of people entering the building.
Built into council’s remediation order was the opportunity for the property owner to ask council to reconsider its decision.
According to an April 18 letter from Gowling WLG lawyer Mark Youden, Seaboard’s counsel, the company is committed to working with the city, but has had challenges dealing with the building because it poses “a complex suite of issues that require further assessment prior to decision-making.”
American Investments president Jack Barr, caretaker of the former Inn at Westview building, was not able to attend the May 4 meeting, but said in an email sent the same day that his company was able to have the structural review of the building completed by the firm RJC Engineers. Barr said closure of the building by WorkSafeBC until a review could be completed “seriously hampered efforts to continue the process of remediation.”
The structural assessment report has been forwarded to Fleck Contracting, a Vancouver-based demolition company that will work with WorkSafeBC, stated Barr.
City chief administrative officer Mac Fraser told councillors at the May 4 meeting that council’s order compels Seaboard to apply for a demolition permit no later than 15 days after the order is given. Once a permit is issued, a process that could take up to a month to work through, Seaboard would then have 30 days to commence demolition. Fraser added it may have been a challenge to meet the deadline before Seaboard had its engineer asses the building.
“This is a difficult and complex issue,” Fraser told council. “You’re now seeing the progress you’ve been wanting to see for the last year or two, maybe a decade.”
Youden said the order imposes unreasonable timelines to deal with the building and requested that council step back from the order and give Seaboard time to determine appropriate next steps after completion of the structural assessment.
Fraser said the city recognizes the complexity of the issue for the property owners and will give it some flexibility.
Councillors CaroleAnn Leishman, Russell Brewer, Rob Southcott, Karen Skadsheim and Maggie Hathaway voted in favour of upholding the original order, while mayor Dave Formosa and councillor Jim Palm voted against.
Palm told council he is encouraged to hear that Barr is making progress dealing with the building.
“I just want to make sure that when we pass the resolution we are putting forward some realistic timelines that can be met,” said Palm. “That’s my concern.”
Hathaway said she was comfortable with the order as it stands, though she might have felt differently if Barr still had been unable to have an engineer inspect the building.
“I like the motion the way it stands,” she said. “He does have the time and he’s moving it ahead as he should.”
Formosa said his worries of pushing the company too hard still exist.
“My thoughts haven’t changed much,” he said. “Council felt that nothing was happening and that we were just being played along. I take a bit of objection to that. I know that I put a lot of pressure on them that this building is coming down.”
Brewer told council he appreciates that the timelines are short, but he is encouraged by recent progress being made.
“There’s a pretty significant expectation on the part of the community for some action on this issue, so I also support the issue,” Brewer told the council. “There is some flexibility in the process to meet everyone’s needs. I’m comfortable in supporting the motion.”