Eight of the homeowners took advantage of Tuesday’s inaugural meeting of the CBRM’s appeals standing committee to either plead their case for more time to fix up their properties or to gather more information on the situation.
Florence resident Ron MacNeil owns one of the houses on the municipality’s list of dangerous and unsightly properties. He was also the first person to appear before the committee.
“I apologize for sounding nervous, I am nervous,” confessed MacNeil, as he addressed the committee in the CBRM council chamber.
He admitted that his property on Shore Road in Florence has fallen into disrepair, but told the committee he has a plan.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to bring it back to its proper standing — the money will come from what I won’t be spending on my daughter’s university tuition and there will be some family help,” said MacNeil, who indicated the reparations mean his daughter now has to take out a student loan to pay for her post-secondary education.
“It has been neglected, it is quite unsightly — I haven’t been checking up on it daily, but that something I am going to do from this point forward.”
MacNeil convinced the committee of his sincerity and was eventually given three months to bring his property back up to acceptable standards.
However, the extension came with some words of advice from Paul Burt, CBRM’s manager of building, planning and licensing.
“We’re OK with his plan provided that he starts sooner than later, we’d like to see the work done as soon as possible — so we’re comfortable with what he’s proposing at this point,” said Burt. “It is a judgment call — it’s about good faith.”
While MacNeil is committed to saving a house that has not been occupied since 2012, others, like Violet King, showed up with different intentions. King wants her mother’s former house on Jessome Street in Glace Bay torn down and she showed up looking for more information. After a chat with the committee, King left the meeting secure in the knowledge that the municipality will facilitate the demolition and that the cost would be applied to her tax bill.
By the end of the meeting, the committee granted four property owners with three-month periods to make, or at least begin in good faith, repairs that would bring their buildings up to an acceptable standard. The other 29 property owners, including four others who appeared before the committee, were given 30 days to make the necessary reparations before the buildings fall to the wrecking ball.
During the meeting, councillor after councillor, including District 1 representative Clarence Prince, told of the complaints they receive on a weekly basis about derelict properties.
“They’re worried about buildings next door that are boarded up, they’re worried about property devaluation, they’re worried about kids breaking in and there’s always the risk of fire,” said Prince.
Added District 10 councillor Darren Bruckschwaiger: “Neighbours are looking at this all the time, they sleep in fear of somebody setting it on fire and firefighters are at risk at these structure fires, so yes, this is important.”
Bruckschwaiger estimates there are hundreds of unoccupied homes that are unfit for habitation across the municipality. He said there are so many derelict homes in his area that he has lost count. And, he added that while there are emotions involved in demolitions, it comes down to public safety.
“It’s painful and the attachment for some people is very strong, but at the end of the day we have a responsibility to the neighbourhoods, the firefighters, all the people who have to go to one of these places if something happens — it’s hard,” he said.
Mayor Cecil Clarke wrapped up the appeals committee meeting with a sobering reminder that the issue of dangerous and unsightly homes is about more than just bricks and mortar.
“What some of us feel isn’t habitable, to other people is someone’s home or their mother’s home, so I do have a great sensitivity to what a magazine might state is a better home or garden versus how people live their lives in tough circumstances,” said Clarke.
“It’s awkward and challenging at times because of the human aspect and not knowing their lives and trying to determine through paper what the impacts are.”
The next meeting of the appeals standing committee is slated for Jan. 9, 2018, at 6 p.m. in the CBRM council chambers.
Dangerous and unsightly properties served with official notice of intent to demolish:
179 Victoria Road
181 Victoria Road
837 Victoria Road
1076 Victoria Road
23 Jessome Street
49 School Street
37 Peel Street
39 Peel Street
343 Tenth Street
345 Tenth Street*
745 Mahon Street
768 Mahon Street
521 Thompson Street
523 Thompson Street
381 King Street
383 King Street
3451 Ross Avenue
48 Pleasant Street
50 Pleasant Street
242 Commercial Street*
54 Peppett Street
947 Shore Road*
109 Crescent Street
137 Legatto Street
17 Clyde Avenue
9 MacAulay Lane
7 Guy Street
31 Guy Street
3 Huron Street
19 MacNamara Street
3 Simpsons Street
83 Shore Road*
*indicates property owner has three months to bring property up to standard