By Chris Lewis | April 15, 2021
The Town of Harbour Grace is unsure as to how to handle a dilapidated building.
The former site of a Canadian Tire store has sat unoccupied for years at the corner of Harvey Street and Water Street.
During council’s March 22 meeting, Mayor Don Coombs said the Town had received some correspondence from residents inquiring as to what the building was and why it has been left unattended so long.
Coombs said the Town has sent the owner letters on a number of occasions asking to get the property cleaned up. Those letters, Coombs said, have received no response in any way, shape or form.
If the Town were to go into the building and do a proper cleanup on its own, Coombs suspects it would come with a hefty price tag.
Coombs’ fellow council members, especially Kevin Williams, expressed concern there may be asbestos in the building. Deputy Mayor Sonia Williams asked whether the Town has the authority to take material from the building in order to test it and get some certainty on the potential asbestos problem.
Coombs said the Town Manager reached out to the provincial government about having someone come in to do a survey for asbestos, but the request was denied because the building is not in operation.
“They won’t come out. Maybe we’ve got to put some more pressure on somebody from government to come and assist us with this, and what to do with this. It is becoming a major problem,” Coombs said. “We all drive by it every day and know what’s there. We need to actually get something done.”
Amy Parsons, the Town manager, said she had been speaking with Occupational Health and Safety and was told they would not get involved, and since the taxes on the property have been paid up to this point, the Town does not have an obvious way forward.
“I’m still checking to see what other items can be addressed and what we can do,” she said.
Mayor Coombs said he does not want to see the Town spend some $50,000 on cleaning up someone’s property.
“It’s a nice piece of property, in a beautiful area. If we could get our money back on it, I could see us investing the cost to get it torn down, he added, “If we’re allowed to tear it down or if we could get ownership of the property”
Councillor Williams said the Town should first focus on obtaining more information about the presence of asbestos, clarifying just how dangerous the substance can be.
“There must be some place we can go to get us on the right track, and someone who can handle that asbestos if it’s there at all,” he said. “I think we should try and go some other route to see if we can get someone to go and take a look at it all.”
Coombs suggested the Town Manager look further into possible options and advise council.
With the former Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church set for a major re-branding into a brewery and spa in the near future, Coombs indicated he is worried about the impact a nearby dilapidated building might have on businesses setting up shop in that otherwise beautiful part of Town.
“It’s one of the worst (eyesores) in the Town of Harbour Grace, in an area that’s showing some growth and development, so I’m sure everyone would love to see it cleaned up,” Coombs said.
Councillor Paul Fitzgerald suggested the Town make mor efforts to contact the property owner and arrange a meeting. Coombs said the owner has, in the past, made it clear they had no intentions of doing much with the property.
That was confirmed by Parsons, who said she did have conversations with the owner after she came to work for the Town in August of 2020.
Still, Coombs said there is potential that minds have changed in the time since that last communication.
So, a decision was made for the Town to once again touch base with the owner.
“It’s ridiculous that we’ve got to look at that every day,” said Deputy Mayor Williams. “I don’t think (the property owner) should be able to do whatever they want in our Town. There’s got to be something that we can do.”