ARICHAT: The owners of a property that was scheduled to be demolished last month, have been given a second chance.
During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on Feb. 22, councillors voted 3-1 to rescind a motion approved in January to order that the demolition process begin on a property at 2011 Whiteside Road.
During the regular monthly meeting on Jan. 25, council accepted a recommendation from the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC) to issue a 10-day demolition order.
EDPC director John Bain explained in January that after council approved a 30-day demolition order in December, the property did not meet full compliance of the remedy and repair order since there was no fence erected around the chimney and the oil tank was not removed.
Bain said in January that he wasn’t prepared to move ahead with demolition because some conditions were followed, so the EDPC issued a pre-demolition order which allowed the owner to attend the council meeting, and present an engineer’s report, which includes a plan for repairing and reconstructing the building, as well as a timeline and estimates.
Co-owner Lester Morgan told council he was in discussions about signing over the land to master carpenter Terry Graham, in return for tearing down his former residence, but he has been unable to contact co-owner Elizabeth Morgan. After consulting with a lawyer, Morgan said he was informed he could not sign over the property without the co-owner’s consent.
After receiving the demolition order from the EDPC on Jan. 8, Morgan told council he was unable to secure a letter from an engineer.
Despite expressing their sympathy with Morgan’s situation, council decided to proceed with the demolition of the property.
The notice to rescind the motion was made at the Feb. 9 committee of the whole meeting, then introduced during the regular session by district 3 councillor Melanie Sampson.
She told council she received information after the motion was passed in January, including a memo from an engineer.
“Upon receiving that information, it did give me some pause, in terms of the risk, perhaps, to the county in terms of potential litigation to continue with the demolition order, and also from a human perspective, I guess I would also question whether or not we should’ve had sober second thought on that,” Sampson stated.
The district 3 councillor said although the engineer’s letter was “vague,” it does open the door to other possibilities, and council wasn’t clear about what they were looking for from the engineer.
Sampson said after talking to Lester Morgan, he reported there was contact with his co-owner, and he believes the letter indicates the property is salvageable.
“It gives the opportunity for Mr. Morgan to have a proper list of this is what we want from an engineering report, and to have the opportunity to provide that,” she said. “Then my feeling would be that we would’ve provided all options for him for the outcome that he’s looking for.”
District 5 councillor Brent Sampson voted against the motion. He argued that the letter from the engineer was received after the deadline, and it didn’t contain anything different from the information council received in December. Although it isn’t an easy decision, he said the demolition process should begin.
“There’s two names on this property, so the gentleman in question here has got an issue with sorting that out,” he told council. “I’m just worried we’re sort of just dragging this on, and making life more difficult for him if this goes on too long.”
According to the engineer’s letter, deputy warden Michael Diggdon said the foundation was solid and the structure was damaged but could be repaired.
Diggdon voted to give the Morgans more time, as did district 1 councillor Shawn Samson.
“For me, it’s tough, we’re not talking about cleaning up a property here, we’re talking about destroying a family home,” Samson told council.
As a result of the rescinded motion, Bain told council the EDPC will send the property owners a notice requesting they appear at the next council meeting to present a plan to repair the residence, signed-off by an engineer, along with quotes and timelines for construction. He said the correspondence will clearly outline what information they require.
“What we would like to have him do is give us enough information to be able to apply for a building permit,” he explained. “He needs a building permit to repair the building. We wouldn’t issue a building permit unless there was a plan.”
Warden Amanda Mombourquette said the item will be added to the agenda for the March 8 committee of the whole session.