The town's demolition order remains in effect -- deadline is Sept. 9
A demolition order has been issued and Yarmouth town council has invited this Willow Street building's owner to meet with them on Thursday. BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
by Belle Hatfield
Yarmouth town council has ordered staff to communicate with the owner of 1 Willow St. about a demolition order now in effect. The property owner learned of the order through a story in this week's Vanguard and has sent a letter to the town's mayor and council objecting to the town's order. The demolition order cites specific deficiencies that have to be rectified. The order states that failure to fix the deficiencies by Sept. 9, “will result in the town taking the necessary action to demolish the premises.”
The building’s owner, Jeffery Raynard, had been invited to appear before council today, Aug. 29. Town staff have not been able to contact the owner, other than by posting orders on the property. In his original letter, received just before council was to meet, Raynard did not indicate a plan of action to deal with the derelict property. Instead, he told the town in his letter that he intends to sue if the town demolishes the house.
After council had dealt with the issue, another letter was received. In the subsequent letter, Raynard wrote that he intends to fix both his Willow Street property and another one he owns at 19-21 Alma Street.
"My intentions are to fix these buildings, name them, and join the heritage committee as soon as possible," he wrote.
Earlier in the afternoon, town resident and property developer Michael Tavares addressed council, urging them to "use every tool" to avoid demolishing buildings that make up the town's streetscape.
"When you bulldoze your heritage you become just anywhere," he said, adding that he had a solution for 1 Willow St.
The Willow Street property, which is on the north-east corner of Cliff Street, is just one of a number of vacant buildings that are a growing source of concern to Yarmouth Town Council.
At Thursday's meeting councillor Ken Langille said he is keenly aware of the town's heritage resource, but council has to also weigh the potential harm to its citizens that these derelict properties represent.
In his letter to council, which he copied to the Vanguard, Raynard wrote, "I worked hard to arrange for the taxes to be paid on both buildings on time and up to date."
He questioned why the appraisers say the buildings are worth over $200,000 and wonders why the town says they're worthless.
"It makes no sense. Which one is it?" he wrote. "If these buildings truly have no value, yet the town has been charging me at this assessed value, is this not classified as stealing?"
The town does not set assessments. Assessments are done by an arms length agency paid by the province's municipal units. Assessments are supposed to represent market value and are based on market data like sales history -- both of the house in question and those around it -- building permits and other data. It is usually not based on a physical inspection, unless there is an appeal. It is the property owner's responsibility to appeal a property's assessment.
The Willow Street property has been vacant and boarded up since the mortgage fraud fiasco rippled through the community in 2009-10. There is a do-not-occupy order on the building, which basically means it isn’t fit for human habitation.
Safety concerns prompted the town to hire a mason to go up and dismantle the chimney closest to the road because it was considered a hazard to passersby. An exterior staircase has also been removed for the same reason.
Although the owner is no longer providing even basic maintenance services, the town’s CAO Jeff Gushue confirmed that taxes are still being paid and so it isn’t technically abandoned.
Council has final authority, and no demolition can occur without its approval.