Special Report: Heritage

Update From Councillor Farr on Gore Demolition

Councillor Jason Farr explains the "confusion" over Friday's initiated demolition on 18-28 King Street East.

By RTH Staff
Published July 22, 2013

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr has written the following update after his meeting with Wilson-Blanchard on Friday afternoon regarding the initiated demolition of the buildings at 18-28 King Street East.

Thank you for your interest and your engagement with respect to this important issue.

At 3:00 PM on Friday, a meeting was held with Robert Miles, a representative from Wilson-Blanchard (the group interested in developing the buildings at 18-28 King Street East), Tim Bullock, the group's legal representative, the acting Chief Building Official, a member of the Building Department staff, some communications staff from our City Manager's office met, Councillor Brian McHattie and me at City Hall.

My first question revolved around the July 9 release that stated the demolition would be on hold to allow for a peer review of their engineering report and more time for public input. This release was vetted by all parties before being sent out, and to say the least, the bulldozer didn't fit the mandate.

In this same release, I shared my gratitude to Mr. David Blanchard for taking the time to work toward a solution, allow for more public input and a peer review of their engineering report with respect to the properties.

Following our meeting, Mr. Miles, the partner among the development consortium who had ordered the bulldozer to arrive this morning, had agreed not demolish anything.

So why the confusion?

The developers hold demolition permits for 18 - 28 King.

A few days following the July 9 meeting where all parties - approximately six City Staff, Mr. Blanchard, Mr. Miles, Mr. Bullock and myself - agreed to hold off on any demolition, the developers received a note from Ed VanderWindt, the city of Hamilton Chief Building Official (CBO).

This note included a paragraph that shared a Building Code Act section as it relates to showing progress in a demolition in order for a permit to remain valid beyond the six month timeline permitted make use of the permit. These permits expire July 25.

This portion of the note was perceived to be more than a reminder by Mr. Miles, and he brought the bulldozer in on Friday morning as a result.

While staff from Economic Development, Heritage Planning, Planning, the City Manager's Office, and myself were present on July 9, I failed to invite a staff member from the Building Department. That said, Mr. Miles' interpretation may have been easily corrected had he contacted the office after receipt of the letter from our chief building official.

As it happened, there already has been enough demolition work inside the buildings to warrant an extension of the demolition permit. This was confirmed when the Acting CBO and Robert Lalli visited the site and inspected it following the emergency meeting this afternoon.

It is my understanding that many areas of dry-wall had been removed as a result of asbestos removal.

Once Mr. Miles had confirmation of this - verbal on Friday and written on Monday - he agreed to pull back the bulldozer. It was clear that Mr. Miles is most interested in holding on to his demolition permits in the event these permits may be needed once a solution is found.

We did indicate he and his group could reapply at that time. However, this was of no interest to him at this time.

It was determined, following Friday's meeting and ultimately the inspection that followed, that we will continue down the path as agreed upon on July 9: more community consult, peer review on their engineer report, no demolition until a solution is found.

You may expect updates from me as they occur and I will do my best to get them to you in the future in advance of any work that occurs or is perceived to be occurring.

To this point, it was confirmed on Friday that on Monday, qualified workers will remove the non-heritage 21st-century accoutrements from the buildings - signs, etc. - so restoration workers can get a good look at the façades before work does begin. They will only be extracting non-heritage elements from the facades of these properties on Monday.

In addition, at the request of Councillor McHattie in Friday's meeting, Mr. Miles agreed to consult with City of Hamilton Heritage Planners as it relates to a solution.

I expect many more good questions and comments will follow this message, and I will soon include an opportunity on my website, jasonfarr.com, for you to provide direct input. In addition, any correspondence received via email or blogs are being saved and will be shared with the property owners.

I am remaining hopeful that we can move forward with a solution sooner rather than later.

Once again, thank you for your engagement and interest.

First published on Jason Farr's website.


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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:33:16

Yes the property owner should have contacted the city for clarification, and good on Farr to admit his mistake (though I have to wonder why nobody else realized the Building Department should have been informed, if not present)

But does this kind of issue get communicated internally among city departments? Do managers get regularly updated on key city files, especially when they're relevant to their area of responsibility? Do they read/listen/watch the news??

Asking the city to get its ____ together might be too much, and the heritage issue is a big one, but getting better at some very basic internal communications would do a world of good for the way things operate at City Hall.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2013-07-22 11:40:28

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