Va­cant build­ings a thorn for city

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN S. HALE ahale@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Alan_S_Hale

Back when the City of Corn­wall was putting to­gether its va­cant build­ing by­law in 2014, it orig­i­nally wanted the abil­ity for the city to tear down build­ings that had been sit­ting empty more than 10 years.

This was revealed when Coun. De­nis Carr asked dur­ing dis­cus­sions on the by­law en­force­ment depart­ment’s bud­get if some kind of sim­i­lar pol­icy could be im­ple­mented to deal with some of Corn­wall’s most-dif­fi­cult derelict build­ings. Chief build­ing of­fi­cial Chris Rogers re­sponded the idea was shot down when it was run by the city’s lawyers four years ago.

“We tried to go there,” said Rogers. “We wanted the right after 10 years to force the build­ing to be de­mol­ished. We do not en­joy that right.”

None­the­less, Rogers said the by­law en­force­ment depart­ment has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in deal­ing with Corn­wall’s va­cant build­ing prob­lem since the new by­law came in.

“In 2014 there were 44 va­cant build­ings in Corn­wall. Of those, some­thing has hap­pened to 24 of them; they’ve been de­mol­ished, or they have been re­oc­cu­pied, which is what we wanted out of the by­law.”

Va­cant build­ings re­main a con­sis­tent thorn in the city’s side, so much so city coun­cil de­cided last year to get rid of the va­cancy re­bate pro­gram in or­der to make it harder for prop­erty own­ers to sim­ply leave their build­ings empty.

Rogers said his depart­ment has gone after all the “low-hang­ing fruit” when it comes va­cant build- ings, and now all that’s left are the hard cases.

One of those hard cases, Coun. Claude McIntosh pointed out, is the large black build­ing on First Street. Although the build­ing is still stand­ing empty, Rogers said the by­law depart­ment was at least suc­cess­ful in get­ting the owner to board up the build­ing prop­erly.

Carr said the build­ing on First Street re­mains a pub­lic hazard.

“The in­te­rior of that build­ing is dan­ger­ous,” he said. “What would you do if it caught fire?”

Fire chief Pierre Voi­sine said his depart­ment has put to­gether plans of ac­tion for all of the derelict build­ings in Corn­wall. Pro­vided they didn’t be­lieve any­one was trapped in­side, fire­fight­ers would sim­ply try to con­tain the fire from the out­side.

“It would be a purely de­fen­sive fight,” said Voi­sine. “We’ve con­tacted some of the build­ing own­ers to make sure that their in­sur­ance com­pa­nies know what kind of tac­tics the fire depart­ment is pre­pared to use.”

ALAN S. HALE/ CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREEHOLDER

This va­cant build­ing on First Street is one of Corn­wall's hard cases when it comes to derelict build­ings in the city. Fire chief Pierre Voi­sine said that if it catches fire, the fire depart­ment will not set foot in­side to try and put it out.

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