It’s deja-vu all over again for the Sutherland Press building.
As was the case in 2008, the fate of the four-storey Talbot St. edifice — scheduled for demolition this month by the city — will be decided in the courts. The city’s legal counsel and Toronto owner David McGee met in a London courtroom Tuesday and will return to the Elgin County Courthouse on April 8.
“I was actually in court this afternoon (Tuesday) going through the same stuff we went through before,” said McGee, who added he received a letter from the city advising demolition would begin Monday on the structure that dates back to 1913.
“They sent that to me yesterday (Monday) and I stayed up all night and drove down this morning.”
McGee said his intention is still to convert the building into condominium units.
“Unfortunately my timetable doesn’t jive with what the city is looking for and so we have a problem right now. I’m frustrated by this whole situation and I’m sure other people are too, but I don’t think the solution is to demolish buildings. It doesn’t make sense for anybody.
“At the end of the day it costs everybody a lot of money. I just don’t understand.”
“We were notified this morning (Tuesday) that it was his intent to get some court action,” said city manager Wendell Graves.
“He was successful in getting a hearing this afternoon (Tuesday) in London. The net result is the matter has been deferred until April 8 so that we can have an opportunity to prepare our information.”
Graves confirmed the court action undertaken was one of the options anticipated by the city.
“Absolutely,” affirmed Graves. “So the process continues. We’ve tried to be extremely transparent with our process and the public tender process.”
Should the courts rule in McGee’s favour, as was the case in the summer of 2008, where does that leave the city in terms of its obligation to Schouten Excavating of Watford, Ont., awarded the demolition contract in the amount of $101,135?
“We need to evaluate that over the next few days to figure out where we are at with the tender,” said Graves. “I believe we had some mechanisms built in to that.”
In June of 2008, city council unanimously approved awarding a $154,500 contract to St. Pierre Construction to demolish the structure. But in late July of that year, demolition ground to a halt when Justice Peter Hockin ruled in favour of owner McGee’s request for leave of appeal, disputing a decision made by Justice David Little 10 days earlier that gave the city a green light to start dismantling the building.
At that time, McGee told the Times-Journal the city dropped the ball when it proceeded with demolition.
“In every way possible, the city handled this thing wrong from the start. I guess we’ll flush it all out when it comes down to what really happened. I don’t think it ever should have happened the way it did.”
Since then, it has continued to slowly succumb to the elements and safety concerns following collapse of the roof at the southwest corner of the building last September forced the city to issue an emergency order calling on McGee to stabilize the structure.
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