Council Losing Patience with Redfish Building Owner
The City of Nelson’s engineers think the building at 479 Baker is a safety hazard. It’s been more than two years since fire destroyed the Redfish Grill, but little has been done to the building since then.
On July 4, 2012, the City wrote to the building’s owner, Sue Ying Wong, asking for an engineering report by August 1 outlining a resolution to safety hazards created by the building. There has been no response, although Wong has constructed a canopy over the sidewalk in front of the building to prevent falling debris from endangering pedestrians.
Weathering causes continuous deterioration
But the canopy is intended as a temporary measure, and the building continues to deteriorate, according to City Planner Dave Wahn. He told City Council at its August 13 meeting that engineers reported the building was safe after the fire, but that “two years of weathering have gotten into the bricks, and the freeze-thaw cycle has loosened them,” he said. “Even if it was somehow made safe again now, it might not be safe a year from now.”
Demolish or rebuild?
City staff and the city’s lawyer have recommended that the owner now be ordered to “remove or repair the building within 60 days.” But at the August 13 meeting, Council debated the wording of that proposed new ultimatum. Some council members who want to see the building rebuilt rather than destroyed, didn’t like the emphasis on the word “remove.”
“The words ‘ordered to remove’ are a little strong,” said Councillor Bob Adams. “We should encourage them to make it safe.”
“I would like to see it restored or repaired,” said Councillor Robyn Cherbo. “It’s a heritage structure plus we don’t want a big hole on Baker.”
“The building is not a registered heritage building,” said Wahn, “so the owner has every right to tear it down. We could order them to repair it, but they could just tear it down.”
Toning down the wording
Council members changed the wording to read that the building must be brought “up to the standards specified in the City’s building by-laws.” Council voted for this change because it could theoretically include demolition but it emphasizes repair.
There was some discussion about the meaning of the 60-day deadline, and Council agreed that within that time period there must be an engineering report and that work must have started.