Owner wor­ried about Ri­d­ley Of­fices

Ri­d­ley Of­fices owner wor­ried about his­toric prop­erty’s fu­ture

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@CBN­com­pass.ca

The Ri­d­ley Of­fices build­ing in Har­bour Grace was built in 1838 and is one of the few struc­tures still stand­ing in the com­mu­nity to have sur­vived the mas­sive fire of 1844. Its owner is wor­ried about the prop­erty’s fu­ture due to on­go­ing marine ac­tiv­ity in the Point of Beach area.

For al­most 180 years, the Ri­d­ley Of­fices build­ing has stood at Point of Beach, even sur­viv­ing the mas­sive fire of 1844 that wiped out most of Har­bour Grace.

But the owner of the Reg­is­tered Her­itage Struc­ture be­lieves on­go­ing in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity that sur­rounds the brick-and­stone prop­erty is hav­ing an ad­verse ef­fect on it, and she wor­ries a pro­posed marine in­dus­trial park could make mat­ters worse.

Rhonda Par­sons, who pur­chased the Ri­d­ley Of­fices in 2005, claims vi­bra­tions caused by Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises’ (HGOE) ship­build­ing and ship re­pair ac­tiv­i­ties have dam­aged her prop­erty.

“You re­ally could not put a cof­fee cup down on the counter,” she told The Com­pass in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Cracked win­dows, cracked cab­i­net glass and com­pro­mised mor­tar are among the is­sues she links to the in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity that sur­rounds her prop­erty. The Com­pass ob­served this dam­age dur­ing a re­cent visit to the prop­erty, though it could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify what caused it.

“I’m not op­posed to the busi­ness,” said Par­sons, whose fam­ily has roots in Har­bour Grace. “I’m op­posed to the prac­tices. I had en­dured two years in a row where they did ship­break­ing ad­ja­cent to this build­ing, and I had sus­tained dam­age.”

In­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity is noth­ing new to that par­tic­u­lar area. Ac­cord­ing to HGOE oper­a­tions man­ager Wayne Reid, the lo­cal ship­yard fa­cil­ity has been in place since the 1970s, with ship­build­ing and ship re­pair ac­tiv­ity in the Point of Beach area dat­ing all the way back to the 19th cen­tury.

“If you’re gong to tell the story, you’ve got to put the facts in it, and she has no facts,” Reid told The Com­pass last week. “It was all tested. Ev­ery­thing we did was ap­proved by En­vi­ron­ment, Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety, Ser­vice NL, the Town of Har­bour Grace. We do ev­ery­thing by the book.”

With re­spect to ship­break­ing, Reid said the com­pany con­ducts a con­trolled tip that uses ex­ca­va­tors to hold a ship while stands are re­moved from the sides. Heavy tires are placed on the ground for the ship to land on.

“It’s not a drop — it’s a con­trolled tip,” he said, es­ti­mat­ing there have been four or five in­stances where this process took place at the ship­yard since Reid started work­ing there in 2002.

Com­plaints

Par­sons has pre­vi­ously spo­ken with the com­pany’s safety in­spec­tor and lodged com­plaints with mul­ti­ple gov­ern- ment de­part­ments. Reid con­firms those same de­part­ments have con­tacted HGOE at var­i­ous points, but no ac­tual prob­lems with the com­pany’s oper­a­tions were iden­ti­fied.

“She made many com­plaints. Ev­ery one of them were in­ves­ti­gated by what­ever depart­ment. None of them came up with any­thing (to match what) she’s say­ing,” he said.

As for the pro­posed marine in­dus­trial park, which would stretch out east from Point of Beach to the edge of the Conception Bay Mu­seum, Par­sons be­lieves the pro­ject is at odds with the town’s Reg­is­tered Her­itage Dis­trict. As des­ig­nated in 1992, the dis­trict starts at Point of Beach and con­tin­ues along Wa­ter Street to the Catholic cathe­dral.

“We re­ally are at odds with each other when it comes to the type of work that’s be­ing done there presently, and although this (area) has a history of ship­build­ing, it’s noth­ing com­pared to what it was then as to what they’re do­ing right now,” she said.

SNC-Lavalin’s fea­si­bil­ity study pre­pared for the Town of Har­bour Grace notes that mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions in the town stip­u­late that “any de­vel­op­ment ad­ja­cent or within 30 me­tres of his­tor­i­cal sites or ar­eas are re­viewed to en­sure there are no neg­a­tive ef­fects on these prop­er­ties.”

The Her­itage Di­vi­sion of the Depart­ment of Busi­ness, Tourism, Cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment is among the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies that must sign off on site lay­out and land use for the pro­posed pro­ject.

Prop­erty’s fu­ture

Reid, who also serves on the com­mit­tee for the marine in­dus­trial park pro­ject, be­lieves there should al­ways re­main a place for Ri­d­ley Of­fices in the Point of Beach area.

“It would be a crime for that house to go. It’s been there since the 1800s. In my best opin­ion, (the owner) should use it as an of­fice or rent it out to a naval ar­chi­tect — some­one in the marine in­dus­try who fits with this area.”

How­ever, Par­sons be­lieves it may be in the prop­erty’s best in­ter­est to move it else­where, not­ing she has come across a com­pany in On­tario that can han­dle the job. She also has no in­ter­est in selling the prop­erty.

“I have been ap­proached by the town on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions to sell, but once I sign on the dot­ted line, it will be the demise of this build­ing,” said Par­sons, who also wor­ries her prop­erty may one day be­come ex­pro­pri­ated.

Reid told The Com­pass there has been no dis­cus­sion on the in­dus­trial park com­mit­tee about get­ting rid of the Ri­d­ley Of­fices.

Fish and seal mer­chant Thomas Ri­d­ley was the orig­i­nal owner of the Ri­d­ley Of­fices and its com­pan­ion residential prop­erty on Wa­ter Street, Ri­d­ley Hall (a fire de­stroyed most of the lat­ter prop­erty in 2003).

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

The Ri­d­ley Of­fices build­ing at Point of Beach in Har­bour Grace is 177 years old.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Wayne Reid is Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises’ oper­a­tions man­ager.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Rhonda Par­sons pur­chased the Ri­d­ley Of­fices build­ing in 2005.

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