After two fires in the course of four months, the property at 878 Abbot Dr. in West Quesnel is more than an eyesore.
It is a danger to anyone who might venture on to its grounds and — as it is located within the drainage of a local wet land — it is presenting a contamination risk too.
The city’s chief building official, Kevin Hicks, submitted a report in front of council last Tuesday (Sept. 17) detailing the problems with the property and suggesting some solutions.
He recommended that council:
• consider the building in a state that creates an unsafe condition;
• declare the property unclean as to be offensive and a nuisance to the community;
• require that the property owner — Gordon Adams — demolish the building and remove all debris and vehicles by Oct. 15; and
• authorize staff to have the building demolished and vehicles removed, should the owner not comply in the given time period.
Council passed the recommendation.
As of press time, the property is still in shambles, with no visible attempt to clean it.
There are several derelict vehicles, two campers, an RV and piles of blackened debris.
Hicks pointed out that issues with the property date back some time.
“There have been bylaw complaints on the property dating as far back as April 2003 and 52 calls for first responders to this property since Jan.1 2018, most recently an overdose on Aug. 23, 2019,” he told council.
Coun. Mitch Vik said the City needs to fix the problem as soon as possible.
“As a member of that neighbourhood, that property is a blight on our community,” he says.
His colleague, Coun. Scott Elliott agreed.
“It’s horrendous,” he said. “So, I would move that this has got to be cleaned up.
“I don’t think we’re going to recoup our costs, but it’s got to be done.”
Hicks pointed out there have been a few estimates received for the cost of cleaning up the property, and they range between $45,000 and $60,000.
The estimates were received before the second fire razed the property to the ground, so Coun. Martin Runge asked whether it might be cheaper now.
Hicks says it will not change the quotes significantly.
“The issue is there’s a lot of hazardous material like asbestos that has to be removed properly, and that’s where it’s costing us,” said Hicks.
In an ideal situation, the property owner would be forced to pay for the clean-up through property taxation, but many present agreed it was unlikely the City will see much in the way of compensation.
Runge expressed concern this type of situation is going to become the norm.
“The property is behind on taxes already, so the odds on collecting those taxes are mostly negative,” he said.
“I’m really worried that this is a way for people to deal with ‘I’ve got a building in arrears that is a nuisance; let’s let the city clean it’ — and then we’re out 60 thousand bucks.”
Mayor Bob Simpson said some new tools might help nip these occurrences with problem properties in the bud before they get to the level of 878 Abbot Dr.
“Our maintenance bylaw and our nuisance bylaw will hopefully help us get on top of these properties a lot sooner, so we’re not waiting until you get into these kinds of situations again,” he said.