House on Williams Street in Chilliwack, fenced off and set for demolition. (Jennifer Feinberg/Chilliwack Progress)

House on Williams Street in Chilliwack, fenced off and set for demolition. (Jennifer Feinberg/Chilliwack Progress)

Council doubles down on demolition of ‘eyesore’ house in downtown Chilliwack

‘You have been the stain of the neighbourhood,’ city councillor tells absentee owners

A vacant house in downtown Chilliwack will be demolished after council upheld a remedial action order at the last council meeting.

The property at 9340 Williams Street was described as a “a hazard and a nuisance to the community,” in the City of Chilliwack staff report.

City bylaw enforcement staff tried for eight months to obtain compliance from the owner.

Dozens of complaints came in about the dilapidated property covered in graffiti, used by squatters, with boarded-up windows and doors, and trash was strewn across the property.

Council originally voted to impose a “remedial action requirement” under Section 74 of the Community Charter, on the absentee property owners at the Sept. 21 council meeting.

RELATED: Council gives owners a few weeks to take action

In response, the owners, including Jasspunit Singh who was in Chilliwack for the hearing, applied for a reconsideration of the order to get more time before the structure came down.

The listing realtor, speaking on behalf of the owners, explained that the registered letters from City of Chilliwack were never received, and they were sent to the accountant’s office address. He said it was a case of a miscommunication, and said they were sorry, and that they were law-abiding citizens.

Once they became aware of the problem in early October, he said, they fenced and cleaned up the property.

“We understand that neighbours are being affected,” the owners’ rep said.

The property, purchased by the group in December 2020 was sold again in July 2021. The new owners told the current owners they needed the demolition held off until after Nov. 15, as a condition of the contract for when the sale is completed, so as not to jeopardize their mortgage financing.

City council was not sympathetic to their dilemma.

Several council members said point blank they did not believe the excuse provided that the owners were not aware, and that they did not receive any of the notices.

“This has been going on for eight plus months,” Mayor Ken Popove said. “I’m not buying what you’re saying.”

Coun. Bud Mercer said he wasn’t “buying” what he was hearing either.

“You have been the stain on the neighbourhood, and you have brought this neighbourhood to its knees,” Mercer said, calling the absenteeism of the owners, “disdaining and disgusting.”

Coun. Chris Kloot advised the owners to “fire” their accountant, and asked how often the owners had checked on the property.

Coun. Harv Westeringh said the solution was in the timing. Since Nov. 15 was the completion date, and it would take at least that long for the demolition to take place by proceeding with the remediation order from the city.

In other words if council undertakes the demolition itself it would still take at least four weeks from now.

Mayor Popove underlined that the city needed to “send a message” to other owners about when properties are considered an eyesore and a nuisance.

Coun. Jeff Shields said it was “very hard to feel any sympathy” for the absentee owners.

“You showed total disrespect for our city, and the neighbourhood, and the people in this room,” Shields said.

Coun. Sue Knott said she had difficulty understanding how a business can not be in contact with its accountant for eight months.

“I have trouble believing it.”

In the end, council decided to uphold the staff recommendation for the remediation order, and proceed with demolition of the house.

RELATED: Vacant house saw five fires in four years

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