Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Second Avenue Business owners push back on City Demolition plan

The old Mohawk location may see a stay of execution  on
demolition following Monday's council session

What became somewhat of a contentious Remedial Action Order made for some of the narrative to the Monday Council session in Prince Rupert. The Agenda item one which solicited some feedback from owners of the property under consideration on Second Avenue West, that of the old Mohawk site.

The two owners  Sal and Frank Chirico participated from out of town by Zoom during the session, with the pair of the property on Second Avenue West speaking of the upcoming discussion for Council related to a potential demolition of their structure. 

The pair advanced for Council that they were blindsided by that, observing that they had not been contacted related to the potential demolition, suggesting that the last communication was in 2021.

"We were notified via, just by fluke through  a long time friend that there is on the Agenda this evening to discuss specifically one of our properties in regards to remediation, possible teardown and I'm paraphrasing here ... it says we were notified by registered mail in regards to this subject. 

So we are blindsided, cause we don't know anything about it. We haven't been contacted specifically to what we're going to be discussing this evening, or what council will  be discussing this evening.

So we're a little kind of perturbed, or at least taken aback not to know anything about it.

There has been some communication in the past, in regards to cleanliness, presentation of the building ... but the last communication we've had was 2021. 

We understand that we've been in good standing order with the City in regards to this property ... we've maintained in on ... an every six month visit to the city to make sure that we're doing what we can"

They questioned who had been sent the letter from City Administrator Rosa Miller from earlier in February, advancing that they had no knowledge of it prior to the Agenda being released for the night.

"We haven't' been notified, we haven't received the registered mail. And we'd like to know who signed for it and when it was delivered, and who signed for it and what address it was sent  to on February 5th as per Rosa Miller's description on the communication"

Council members were not allowed to engage with the residents as part of that public comment period, but their overview of the process involved would come minutes later when the actual Remedial Action Order towards building removal for the property came up for review.

Towards that discussion Councillor Niesh spoke first to the property in question, observing how it was a property long in need of repair and that it was a process to further it along.

"This is a property that is long need of repairs and this is just a process that we have to go through to further it along, I would think that the Chirico's would probably want to repair their building and have an opportunity to do that."

As is the case on occasion, Mayor Pond had to provide guidance to the council members towards how they could address the property owners, noting that it al should be done through the chair.

Following his caution card, Mr. Niesh continued with his commentary noting how the city is striving to improve the downtown core and had a program for revitalization available for use for such purposes. He followed up on that thought noting how it was a building that could be repaired and put back into use once again.

That being said, over the last couple of years we've been looking at downtown, you know trying to make it a better place, we've been taking down buildings recently. In the last few years we've actually offered many opportunities for  grants ... the revitalization grant that we were doing. 

So if they would like to look into the available revitalization opportunities that we've given up or tax incentives to fix buildings in the downtown core, you know it's probably in their benefit.

I would like to see the building repaired myself, I think its probably one of the few that can be repaired and it would be nice as that area gets redeveloped  here, it sure would be nice to see that building become part of that area.

I would like to point out that this is not a matter of us just wanting to tear down random buildings; this is a matter of us trying to clean up our downtown and we hope that you can be part of it "

Councillor Cunningham followed up on the theme, first asking what the impact may be if they did not receive the letter that made for the start of the process.  As he had done with Councillor Niesh, the Mayor provided a tutorial for Councillor Cunningham on the process towards speaking to the residents on Zoom.

In reply to the letter question, City Manager Dr. Rob Buchan observed that the letter was sent and received to the address listed, he also outlined the process that is in place towards the remedial order and how the  owners do have the fourteen days to respond with guidance towards their intentions for the property.

He also noted that there had been many calls and many discussions towards the building in the past and that staff was willing to meet with them again towards the issue.

"With regard to the question as to the effect of the owner's not having received the letter that was sent in this process. First of all we know the letter was sent registered and it was signed for, so we know it was received to where the letter was sent to.

But that letter's not required for this process. What's required for this process is a notice to be sent out,  if Council authorizes us to proceed, so that the owners are aware of the remedial order that Council is moving forward. They have a period of time within which to respond.

The registered letter that was sent out basically said: Can you do a plan for a clean up, can you remediate it. If we don't receive that we'll bring this to Council to consider a remedial order.

So that letter basically was a heads up to the process.

Mr. Buchan also noted that there had been many calls and many discussions towards the building in the past requesting a clean up and that staff was willing to meet with them again towards the issue.

He also provided guidance on what the property owners could do to address the outstanding issues related to the building and how City council can stop the process at any time.

Councillor Forster asked for some clarification on the civic process should they pass the request for direction for staff on the night. Towards that further clarity on the timeline issue, the City Manager observed he would have to get back to Council on the topic.

Councillor Cunningham returned to the discussion, noting how the owners do have other properties in town and noted that they likely would be interested in returning it to use.

"We're dealing with people here, that have more than just one derelict piece of property in town, they have some very nice properties. I don't think their intention is to walk away or leave this I have a lot of faith in fact that they will want to fix this up, it's a piece of property that can be fixed. Maybe they can open up a donut shop now that Baker Boy's gone"

The Mayor  followed up with an observation that many years ago a donut shop was actually the first use for the building when it was built.

An attempt from Councillor Cunningham to ask about they future plans for the building was denied by the Mayor, who noted the only opportunity for the property owners participation in the discussion was at the start of the council session.

Mr. Pond further observed how the building owners could communicate their plans by letter if they wished.

Councillor Adey returned the discussion to the focus of Council on the concern related to derelict properties which is why they are moving forward on remediation for them, he also noted that there seemed to be some opportunity for improvements to be made in this case.

Mayor Pond used the opportunity to observe as to how he sees the turnaround ahead for the community.

"Listen, we're rounding a corner, we're gonna get the water pipes fixed, we're gonna start rebuilding Second Avenue as part of that process. We're seeing the new RCMP building coming out of the ground.

Whether people like it or don't like it, the Roundabout will redefine that portion of town, there's opportunity for housing projects along there.

The community can expect and building owners can expect, both residential and commercial that there will be more of these actions taken, because it's part of an overall move towards improving our community. 

And there's certainly a hunger for that and I think it's been well outlined.

This may feel like a, well it is you know, a legal, bureaucratic process, but it's one designed to lead to a better outcome and if the building owners come with a good proposal in a timely manner, that's the outcome we all want.

And so, I think other building owners, other property owners should be on notice, that we can only do so many at a time. It's a very intensive process for staff, but there's an intention that these kind of reports will be in front of council on a regular basis throughout the remainder of this year"

From there Council approved the direction to staff to move forward on the order in question, though the impression left by the end of the conversation was one that if the owners propose a remediation plan, the building won't likely face the demolition process.

You can review the two elements of the discussion from the City's Video Archive, the first coming at the twenty three minute mark with the owners take issue with the remedial order, the Council discussion of the process comes at the twenty six minute mark.

More notes on the Monday Council session can be reviewed through our Council Timeline here.

A wider overview of past council discussion themes is available here.


  1. Apart from further reminders about speaking protocols, it seemed to be a challenge for the Mayor to keep some councillors from drifting off the agenda item - a bylaw enforcement issue - to ponder about their vision for downtown, the owners' intentions, properties that are not on the agenda, and the gem for the night, a donut shop. It's surprising after all these years in office.

  2. Perhaps the out of town owners should be more mindful of the state of their building that they are allowing to rot in plain view of the entire city for what has been over a decade, with absolutely no regard for what an eyesore it has become. Shame on them! Good on the city for forcing their hand. The same needs to be done on every derelict building in the downtown.