While City of Powell River staff continues to determine what it will cost to take down the derelict former Inn at Westview building, mayor Dave Formosa said council is ready to proceed with demolishing the building.
In April, council approved a 15-day remediation order directing the building's owners, Vancouver-based Seaboard Hotels, to make its demolition plans known to the city.
Council received a letter back from Seaboard’s attorney stating that the building, which is located on Alberni Street near Town Centre Mall, presented “a complex suite of issues that require further assessment prior to decision-making” and timelines on the order were “unreasonable."
Council upheld its order and notified Seaboard it was willing to be flexible. The city has yet to receive any demolition plans.
"It's time for us to move," said Formosa. "I don't think we have any choice now that we've given them an ultimatum and that day has come and gone and nothing really formal has come in."
The Inn was closed in 2004 and has sat dormant and boarded up for the past 14 years. Over the past five years there has been a steady increase of public pressure on city council to have Seaboard deal with it, said Formosa.
City director of planning services Thomas Knight said the city’s building department has been tasked with generating cost estimates to remove the unsightly and dangerous building that has raised the ire of many residents.
"We haven't gotten anything from the owners and that is what has led to council's and a lot of residents' frustration on this," said Knight.
Knight added that having the city develop its own estimates is important in order to give council a clear picture of the costs involved. Up until now, demolition estimates have not come from the city but from the building’s manager, American Investments owner Jack Barr, who also owns Town Centre Mall. Those cost estimates have varied from $300,000 up to nearly $1 million.
“We want to know exactly what it's going to cost so that if Seaboard does not step up, then we are going to go in and take it down,” said Formosa. “We need to know. It's getting down to point where we're going to have to do something.”
Knight said the city will prepare a report on the costs and will not proceed with the actual demolition of the building until council provides direction. He said his department expects to be able to present the report in the fall after having faced delays in finding contractors to assess the building.
The city has now contracted local structural engineer Paul Steffens to enter the partially collapsed building and provide a report on the work necessary to make it safe to enter.
Once that work is complete, a determination can be made on the level of asbestos contamination present inside the building and what steps will been to be taken for safe removal.
Formosa said that any previous concerns he had about the city bankrupting Seaboard Hotels with a demolition bill have been put aside. He said that even though the Beach Gardens Marina and Resort, also owned by Seaboard, is a separate property, the city may be able to have a judge order the sale of that property to pay back the city’s demolition costs for the former inn.
BC’s Community Charter, provincial laws that mandate how municipalities operate, states that a municipality first has to formally declare a building a nuisance and public safety hazard before it can order the property’s owner to take the building down.
If the owner does not comply, then the city is empowered to take the building down and go after the owner for the costs, which could include seizing properties for resale or through the courts.
Formosa said recent legal advice from the city’s lawyers have clarified some issues, though he would not go into specifics.
Formosa added he was hesitant to push the building’s owners too hard before because he knew the value of the land the inn sits on is worth less than the cost of demolition. He said he did not want the city to get stuck with a property that it could not recoup its costs from.
Formosa added that his sense is taxpayers are “firmly behind” council’s efforts to take the building down and will not balk if council has to borrow money to pay the costs.