The Carlson Building on 2nd Avenue was declared a nuisance property during Port Alberni’s Monday, Nov. 27 city council meeting, but it may not be the last uptown building to go through this process.
During an Oct. 10 meeting, council directed staff to provide a report about the Carlson Building based on bylaw calls, RCMP calls, fire department calls and public works calls so they could look at the history of the building.
Letters were also sent to the property owners to inform them that city council would be considering the propety a nuisance, and requesting that they attend or provide written content.
If city council declares a property a nuisance, then the city can bill and recover cost of abating a nuisance.
“If there are any future issues that occur…then a bill would be sent to that property owner,” said director of development services Scott Smith during Monday’s meeting. He added that council could review the property after about six months or so to see what the status of the property is.
In a report provided by Smith to council, it was revealed that the Carlson Building received 18 calls for service from the RCMP in 2016 and 17 in 2017. The number of calls that the building receives is “well above average.”
To mid-October of this year, the fire department has received three first responder calls and one assistance call to the property. There has also been an “unsatisfactory” fire inspection report.
There were two bylaw enforcement files in 2017, but bylaw enforcement has also been involved in several garbage related calls around the property.
“On several occasions garbage has had to be picked up from the sidewalk next to the building,” the report states. “In one instance, a few barrels with unknown contents were left on the sidewalk along the side of the building. The City called in a contractor to deal with the materials properly and a bill was sent to the property owner for this cleanup.”
Lisa Eurchuk, the co-owner of the Carlson, wrote in response, requesting that council not declare the building a nuisance property.
She argues in her letter that the neighbourhood is “one of the more challenged areas of the City” and that there have been many issues with tenants. She also argues that the garbage outside of the Carlson is not strictly related to the Carlson.
“Is there documented proof that Carlson tenants are dropping garbage there?” she asked. “How can you accuse the Carlson Building as being responsible for the ‘litter’ issue when the whole neighbourhood and beyond has been noted as discarding their various pieces in that parking lot.”
She also notes that they have been charged with the removal of barrels that resulted from a “squatter” in the building who has since been charged with serious offences.
“The building has been maligned and downgraded while also serving as a home for a few people who have been resident for a couple/few years,” she said. “To end, this has not been an easy time for anyone, and I am certain that Mayor Ruttan is aware of what had been our good intentions on purchase of the building and residing in Port Alberni.”
The building’s other co-owner, John Mortimer, was in council chambers on Monday to present his case. He explained that a leaser had taken over the building for a number of months while he was out of town, eventually culminating in a police raid.
“We came here 11 years ago to be a part of the solution in that neighbourhood,” he explained.
His hope, he said, was eventually to rent out the commercial space below the building, but this never became viable.
“The people I house have mental illnesses and addictions,” he said. “I try to make sure they’re okay. We do get more police calls than usual…but it’s not excessive.”
He pointed out that the Carlson Building may not be the best place in town to live, but declaring it a nuisance isn’t going to make it any better.
Mortimer said he has since been working with RCMP and bylaw staff, and he has an upcoming fire inspection. He also has plans to paint over the outside of the building, which has been excessively vandalized.
“It’s clean now,” he added. “There’s no garbage outside.”
Although council eventually decided to declare the property a nuisance, they agreed to check back on the Carlson Building in six months.
Councillor Chris Alemany said it is important for council to be able to hear from property owners.
“I think it’s worth noting that we have someone who appears to be trying,” he said.
Mayor Mike Ruttan pointed out that addressing nuisance problems shows responsible ownership and maintenance. “I’m impressed with the progress you have been able to make,” he told Mortimer on Monday.
Council also voted on Monday to start the process to declare the Harbourview Apartments on 3rd Avenue a nuisance property.
Councillor Jack McLeman brought the motion forward, pointing out, “The alley behind there is almost too dangerous to walk in now. People are scared to go to work.”
Councillor Denis Sauvé added that he has been monitoring the area and has noted police presence there on a daily basis. “It’s really putting a heavy weight on our services,” he said.
Like the Carlson Building, city staff will bring forward a report about the Harbourview Apartments, and owners will have a chance to present to council before it is declared a nuisance.