The new owner of the derelict Arrowview Hotel has 30 days to demolish the building.
After property owner Ray Letourneau failed to provide details on his planned remediation of the building by a January deadline, Port Alberni city council voted on Monday, April 23 to declare the building a hazard and a nuisance, proceeding under the Community Charter.
“In staff’s opinion, the building is unsafe, dilapidated and unsightly, and as such has become offensive to the community,” director of development services Scott Smith summarized on Monday.
The property, he said, has a bit of history with the city. Council began to look at the property “in earnest” in 2014. A thorough inspection of the interior and exterior was conducted then, and the building owner at the time was asked to remediate it to building code standards or have it demolished. A fire occurred in 2015, causing further damage.
Smith said that the city’s building inspector reported that damage to the building exceeds 75 percent of its assessed value.
“That’s an important threshold,” said Smith. “It is not only in our city’s building bylaw but also provincial legislation that when that occurs, it must be brought up to today’s current building code. You can’t just do a repair.”
In early 2017, a land exchange was set up with the owner, contingent on demolition of the structure. Remediation work and asbestos removal began, but demolition ceased and the agreement expired.
In late 2017, the property was purchased by Vancouver engineer Ray Letourneau. Letourneau had plans to restore the building and create a business within it. His proposal was met with cautious optimism from city councillors.
Letourneau was required to provide a detailed plan by professional architects for the remediation of the building to current provincial building code standards, or a detailed plan for the demolition of the building.
City did not receive any plans by a January deadline.
Letourneau argued his case in council chambers on Monday. He had financing in place to address the structural damage and make the building safe, but after purchasing the property, he claims he was asked to provide more detailed design plans than previously required.
“That changed my financing requirements,” he said. “This has put me in a position where I’m not only required to address the structure and the safety, but also to define what are my final plans.”
Letourneau said that he has always been willing to move forward with the project, but felt that he had inherited “politics” along with the building. “I’ve been handed a huge burden of financial requirements when I don’t think I should be,” he said.
Mayor Mike Ruttan replied that council had made the building’s history perfectly clear, as well as their expectations for remedial action. “You knew exactly what you were purchasing when you purchased that building, and that we had expectations,” he said.
Councillor Jack McLeman suggested that trying to restore the derelict building would cost more money than taking it down and building something new. “I think this is the cheapest way,” he said.
Letourneau will now be given 30 days to undertake remedial action, or the city may take control of the project at a cost to the owner. The remedial action recommended by the city is demolition.
Councillor Chris Alemany expressed his disappointment that the city would be losing a piece of its heritage, but agreed, “I think the time has come.”
He suggested that the city preserve small heritage tokens from the building by keeping them at the Alberni Valley Museum.