Two more buildings in Port Alberni’s Uptown have been declared nuisance properties following a meeting of city council on Monday, Feb. 26.
Director of development services Scott Smith provided reports on the former CJAV building on Third Avenue, the Harbourview Apartments and the former Beaufort Hotel, which all received “high” volumes of calls from the RCMP over the past year.
Randy Brown, the owner of the old radio station building, said he was working with the city to address concerns—notably by evicting one “problem” tenant, and working to move another out at the end of February.
“I’m working with the city to try and do this,” Brown said. “I’m not working against them.”
The building in question has six residences sharing two washrooms and one kitchen area.
“I’ve been through that property,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan. “That building was in the worst condition of virtually any building I’ve been through. It’s not a building that I would want to see anybody live in.”
Brown disagreed, stating, “It’s a great building. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
He suggested that the residents themselves are the cause of any poor conditions.
“What do people expect these days?” he asked. “They get a place to live and a washroom, everything’s clean. It’s up to them to make the most of it.”
In the past, Brown said, he had been directing residents to contact the RCMP when they report a dangerous situation.
“Now it may change,” he said.
Councillor Denis Sauvé was adamant in his declaration that the building is not livable.
“I’ve been on UN tours, I’ve been in the poorest countries and I’ve never seen people live the way they live [here],” he said.
Council voted to declare the property a nuisance, although Councillor Chris Alemany voted against it, citing concern for the residents.
“I’m afraid that we are going to make the problem worse by putting more people on the street,” he said.
Brown, also an owner of the Harbourview Apartments, said he had received notice of the city’s intentions about that building.
However, the apartment’s co-owner, Martin Chambers, claimed that the city had neglected to serve notice to him. He suggested that the city wait another month to consider the property.
“We jointly will endeavor to address all the city’s concerns,” he said.
Council agreed to give the owners an additional two weeks before coming back to the motion, although Sauvé and Councillor Sharie Minions voted against this.
With regards to the former Beaufort Hotel, the owners Moby Amarsi and Paul Saroya emailed council and asked for six months postponement, after they had evicted problem tenants, changed management and added in-house maintenance personnel.
“We have done the following to make sure that calls to RCMP and other departments are reduced to emergency only,” the email stated.
Saroya has been in front of city council before. In 2015, he proposed a $6 million condominium for the vacant lot across from the Beaufort. This has not come to fruition. He was criticized by city council at the time for his other real estate ventures, including the Beaufort and a number of low-rent buildings on Fourth Avenue.
Council did vote to declare the Beaufort a nuisance.
Alemany later posted on Facebook that he had voted against the declarations because there is no plan for the enforcement of building and living standards. He again expressed concern for the residents of the buildings.
“Mr. Brown in particular made it very clear he felt his properties were just fine, and it was his tenants that caused the biggest problems,” he said. “If our nuisance designation makes it less likely for Mr. Brown or his tenants to call the police or fire or city service when it is needed, then what are we doing, if not making the problem potentially much worse?”
City CAO Tim Pley explained on Monday that a nuisance designation does not mean the city will spend more time looking after the building.
“We’re still going to be interacting with the building, regardless of the designation,” he said. “It means there’s a cost-recovery capacity for the city.”
Under a nuisance abatement bylaw, the city will be able to bill the property owner and recover the cost of abating any nuisances.
Pley added that the designations were suggested by the city’s new Nuisance Property Working Group.
“The working group feels that they need this leverage in order to bring that building into compliance with regulations,” he said.
Council will be revisiting the properties in a year to determine if the designation needs to continue or not.
Ruttan also provided a notice of motion at the end of the meeting, suggesting that council discuss a bylaw enforcement and compliance policy for city staff at the next meeting on Monday, March 12.