Har­bour Grace seeks min­is­ter’s ap­proval to ex­pro­pri­ate Ri­d­ley Of­fices

Coun. Tet­ford wor­ries prop­erty could be­come a costly li­a­bil­ity for the town

The Compass - - News - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The Town of Har­bour Grace is seek­ing ap­proval from the min­is­ter of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs to ex­pro­pri­ate one of the com­mu­nity’s old­est build­ings.

Ri­d­ley Of­fices, lo­cated on Beach Hill, was built in 1838. Lo­cal mer­chant Thomas Ri­d­ley used the stone struc­ture for busi­ness mat­ters, and also built Ri­d­ley Hall on Wa­ter Street. The lat­ter his­toric prop­erty was se­verely dam­aged by fire in 2003.

Coun­cil first passed a mo­tion in Au­gust of 2015 to ex­plore the ex­pro­pri­a­tion process for Ri­d­ley Of­fices. A few months later, an of­fer was made to owner Rhonda Par­sons to pur­chase the build­ing, but it was re­jected.

At last Wednes­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, Coun. Hay­ward Blake in­tro­duced a new mo­tion to take the next step and seek ap­proval from Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs.

“We would ex­pro­pri­ate it as a sig­nif­i­cant piece of his­tor­i­cal prop­erty in the Town of Har­bour Grace and to en­sure that its in­tegrity as a his­tor­i­cal prop­erty is main­tained,” he said. “It would be best suited to be within the town’s in­fra­struc­ture.”

Blake noted with the town’s her­itage district al­ready in place and for­mally rec­og­nized, there are fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that could ben­e­fit the Beach Hill prop­erty. Ri­d­ley Of­fices is a Reg­is­tered Her­itage Struc­ture.

While get­ting ap­proval from the min­is­ter’s of­fice is part of the process, do­ing so would not fi­nal­ize ex­pro­pri­a­tion. This point was made af­ter Coun. Kathy Tet­ford raised con­cerns about the pos­si­ble cost of tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for Ri­d­ley Of­fices.

“I can un­der­stand the rea­son­ing be­hind pur­chas­ing the build­ing, but I think be­fore we step for­ward and pur­chase the build­ing, we need to seek some facts on what even a ball­park fig­ure would be to at­tain it … but also how much re­pair has to be done to the build­ing,” she said. “As far as I un­der­stand, there’s a lot of work that has to be done on the build­ing.”

Town CAO Michael Sac­cary said the town could still with­draw from the process at any time mov­ing for­ward if it’s found ex­pro­pri­at­ing the prop­erty isn’t in its best in­ter­est.

“If the town is not com­fort­able with the sit­u­a­tion that they de­vel­oped as far as fini­cally and that goes and are un­able to find other av­enues in which to be able to sup­port it, then the town can with­draw its ex­pro­pri­a­tion (re­quest) at any time,” he said.

Sac­cary said a com­mit­tee put in place by the min­is­ter would re­view the pro­posal, eval­u­ate it and come back to the town.

Tet­ford was the lone coun­cil mem­ber to vote against the mo­tion last Wednes­day.

Re­la­tions be­tween the town and the owner of Ri­d­ley Of­fices, Rhonda Par­sons, have been con­tentious at times. She’s ques­tioned why the town rec­og­nizes Ri­d­ley Of­fices as a com­mer­cial prop­erty when the Mu­nic­i­pal As­sess­ment Agency con­sid­ers it a res­i­den­tial one. At­tempts by Par­sons to ob­tain a per­mit from the town to of­fer public tours of the prop­erty were de­nied. Par­sons is also crit­i­cal of the Marine In­dus­trial Park pro­posal and has ex­pressed con­cerns about ac­tiv­ity at Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises com­pro­mis­ing the struc­tural in­tegrity of her prop­erty.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Ri­d­ley Of­fices was built in 1838, mak­ing it one of the old­est build­ings in Har­bour Grace.

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