A last-ditch effort by Sobeys has led to new commitments to resolve longstanding problems with the old Safeway property on Main Street.
City officials had been ready to ask the owner to demolish the two run-down buildings in the middle of the downtown core and had been moving head with the paperwork for a demolition order.
However, as a result of last-minute efforts, voluntary compliance has been offered by Sobeys to demolish both structures on the property within 90 days.
A letter from Earl Brown, Sobeys vice president, spells out new plans — and even some remorse over the state of the dilapidated properties at Main and Kipp Street.
“Sobeys is in full agreement that the properties in their existing condition are not appealing nor do they add to our mutual desire to have a vibrant downtown,” wrote Brown, in a letter to Mayor Sharon Gaetz, dated Aug. 17.
The boarded-up buildings are sitting on a prime chunk of real estate, which is seen as pivotal in the revitalization of the downtown core.
Growing frustration by City of Chilliwack with their inability to obtain voluntary compliance by Sobeys to apply for a Vacant Building Regulation permit led to a plan last week to take remedial action to get the buildings demolished. But in the end it wasn’t necessary.
Council members expressed relief at city hall Tuesday night.
“I can’t stop smiling,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, adding her thanks to Sobeys for coming up with a solution.
Coun. Chuck Stam offered “kudos” to all involved and said he’s looking forward to “seeing some dust” when the demolition work starts.
“This has been a difficult file, and it’s been about 10 years that it has been an eyesore in the downtown.”
Coun. Sam Waddington said the voluntary compliance was very welcome by council.
“It’s so much better than having to force the owners to tear down the buildings,” he said.
Coun. Sue Attrill called the resolution “wonderful” and said the old Safeway building was the one topic council constantly heard from residents about.
“I hope we get notice of the date of demolition so we can get out there and dance a little jig,” she said.
The letter by Sobeys made their intent clear.
“In order to expedite the potential redevelopment of the downtown property, Sobeys hereby undertakes to have the building structures on the subject properties demolished within ninety (90) days of the date of this letter; i.e. by no later than November 14, 2015,” reads the letter by Brown.
The properties will go up for sale by August 24.
Based on the letter of commitment to demolish, the permit applications, and commitment to market the properties, council agreed Tuesday night to drop the requirement for remedial action on the two properties at 9299 Main Street and 45777 Kipp Avenue.
Sobeys Inc. purchased all of Canada Safeway’s assets in November 2013, and the Sobeys affiliated company, SDLP Snowcat Limited is the registered owner of the Chilliwack properties.
The Sobeys VP thanked the mayor, and staff in his letter, “for taking time out of your weekend to come up with a solution for the former Safeway and Government Liquor Store buildings on Main Street.”
Brown closed with: “Thank you for your patience in addressing this issue.
“Sobeys regrets very much that the state of these properties was not addressed sooner.”