Round 3 is coming up momentarily. Of course we’re talking about the Sutherland Saga, the seemingly endless courtroom soap opera.
In the last episode, culminating on Sept. 27, Justice Gorman accepted Sutherland Press building owner David McGee’s submission at a May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order issued by the city and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner.
McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, argued in March of this year the city did not properly deliver via registered mail a letter warning demolition of the building would begin at the end of that month because of noncompliance with a property standards order. The order called for immediate replacement of spalling or damaged bricks and securing the roof, which had suffered a partial collapse.
As a result of Justice Gorman’s ruling, both the work order and the demolition warning are null and void.
Undaunted, the city is going to proceed with issuing another work order, according to city manager Wendell Graves.
“We will be issuing a new order as a result of the decision from the courts,” advised Graves on Thursday. “It will be an unsafe building order. It will be issued shortly.
“When you issue any order, the respondent has an opportunity to respond. So it will be in Sutherland Lofts Inc. court to respond to that order. Those are the steps we have to follow.”
As for time frame for completion of the required remedial work, Graves indicated “There will be milestones in the order and our building officials are working on that. That will be laid out in the order.”
So, we’re right back to Square 1.
“Yes, in terms of issuance of an order. But we will keep moving forward from our side to make sure public safety is looked after.”
You can bet the city will deliver that order in a fashion that defies challenge.
“We will be doing our due diligence to ensure there is no cause for anyone to challenge the way it is delivered,” assured Graves.
On the other side of the ledger, M’Garry told this corner Thursday “I’ve been in discussion with Mr. Sanders (John Sanders, the city’s legal counsel) and he has not indicated to me they’re going to repeat the process, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. At this point, I have no information one way or the other.”
One thing that is crystal clear, stressed M’Garry, the city has no authority to proceed with its threat to demolish the four-storey building dating back to 1913.
“What she (Justice Gorman) effectively said was the lack of specificity of the order together with the defective service make it non-compliant . . . in other words, the order is null, void and inoperative.
“In other words, there is no order that says they can demolish.”
Did you catch that: the lack of specifics in the work order issued by the city. A point not mentioned in any release or conversation with city officials.
M’Garry and Sanders were to consult again later Thursday or Friday.
In the meantime, according to M’Garry, the building owner is attempting to move forward.
“Because things need to be done on the building. And he’s not unaware of that. But getting the financing remains an obstacle. And it’s one of the things I have to talk to Mr. Sanders about.
“It’s always been a Catch 22,” M’Garry added. “The building needs money in order to move it ahead. He can’t get the money if it’s going to be imminently demolished.”
‘IT’S A BIG, BAD MESS’
Lois Jackson is referring to incidents of animal abuse and neglect – cases of which are on the rise in St. Thomas and Elgin.
As chair of the city’s animal welfare select committee and founder of All Breed Canine Rescue, Jackson knows of what she speaks.
And now even greater profile as the case of 20-year-old Payton Garner and 19-year-old Cody Yeo wends its way through the court system.
Each has been charged with three counts of causing injury to an animal and one count of mischief under $5,000 as a result of damage to their apartment unit.
Back in August, the bodies of two dogs – apparently dead for some time – were found in a Confederation Drive apartment.
A cat – still alive – was removed for medical treatment.
Jackson is seeking to host a round table discussion to deal with the growing number of incidents of animal abuse.
“I’m hopeful I can put the police, firefighters, animal control, OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and vets at a table and say what can we do in Elgin to provide facilities for on-going animal abuse and neglect issues.”
Can’t imagine why any one of those partners listed above would not participate in this forum as Elgin is one of the few areas without a humane society.
Garner and Yeo, by the way, are back in court Oct. 25.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope