The city of Port Alberni has agreed to proceed with a $400,000 demolition of the derelict Arrowview Hotel, despite threats of legal action from its property owner.
Current owner, Ray Letourneau, has not to this date completed remedial action the city required to demolish the building, and submitted a letter to council asking for more time to move forward with his planned restoration of the building.
Letourneau, who did not appear in council chambers on Monday, Aug. 13, stated in his letter, “…if the city won’t let me try and simply threatens to demolish my property then the city is only pushing me into a corner with no choice but to take legal steps to save my property and my investment.”
Letourneau purchased the property in late 2017, at which point he stated he had plans to restore the derelict hotel and use it for a “small community economic strategy” he had developed.
But after Letourneau missed a deadline earlier this year, the city agreed to proceed under a Community Charter process to declare the building a hazard and a nuisance. Council ordered the demolition and removal of the building, the cost of which would be added to Letourneau’s property tax. If the owner cannot afford to pay for the tax, then the property becomes the city’s.
Scott Smith, director of development services, said that asbestos remains in the building, and a preliminary cost estimate for safe demolition is around $400,000.
“We have done everything we can in order to address this situation,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan on Monday. “Council has provided every opportunity and then some for the owner and subsequent owner of this property to address it.”
Letourneau claimed in his letter that the building had been cleared “safe for work” by a structural engineer. Smith said that under the previous owner, an engineer only made recommendations to allow employees of a remediation company to go inside and safely begin the remediation process.
“That was the extent of the report,” said Smith. “Not a full analysis about how it meets code. It was to make the building safe for the remediation company employees to go in and begin asbestos remediation.”
Councillor Dan Washington suggested granting Letourneau the amount of time it would take to secure a demolition bid, and then decide whether or not to proceed with demolition. “Can we grant him his last 30 days and say that’s it?” he asked.
Councillor Jack McLeman expressed concern that giving the propery owner an extra 30 days might deter demolition companies from submitting bids. “This individual and the previous owner have had a lot of time to deal with this building,” he said. “Either we say no or we say yes.”
Ruttan added that he was more concerned about public safety than the cost to the city. “Wherever the money comes from, frankly, is not as important as the fact that we move ahead and not indicate to the owner of this property and the public that we’re waffling on it,” he said.
Council agreed to proceed with a formal bidding process for the demolition of the building, with funding coming from the Land Sale Reserve fund.