‘It just sits there.’ Is the Sutherland Press building a monument to something or an over-sized bird house?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen we last looked in on the Sutherland Saga, one question remained unanswered. Is the four-storey structure looming over the downtown core unsafe?
After a day-long hearing Friday at the Elgin County Courthouse – in which lawyer Valerie M’Garry, representing owner David McGee, and John Sanders, representing the city’s chief building official Chris Peck, parried over the definition of unsafe and is there a definition of a safe structure – little headway was made in what has become a dizzying debate over semantics.
And, as was the case on the opening day of the hearing a week ago, it was Justice Peter Hockin who dominated proceedings. Pondering aloud at one point, “What if this place is not insurable from a liability point of view?”
To backtrack for a moment, the purpose of the two-day hearing is to get down to business and deal with the decision of a three-member court of appeal panel handed down last month in which it ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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Can a building simply crumble under the weight of engineering reports?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a question posed by one of three appeal court justices that cut to the chase in the latest snafu associated with the Sutherland Saga.
Wednesday morning at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, she queried why “a defect in service would make an order null and void.”
Specifically, why would an alleged deficiency in the manner in which Chris Peck, the city’s chief building inspector, delivered a notice to building owner David McGee, warning of demolition of the structure for failure to comply with a previous work order, render it null and void?
Well, that was the determination of Justice Kelly Gorman on Sept. 27 of last year at the Elgin County Courthouse, which let to the city’s appeal of that decision heard last week.

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You have been forewarned, this ain’t her first St. Thomas rodeo


city_scope_logo-cmykQuestion for you. What’s a common factor in the demolition of a building and demolition of end-of-life vehicles? Well, in St. Thomas that would be Valerie M’Garry.
For nearly a decade, the London lawyer has steered her client – Sutherland Press building owner David McGee – through the court system, deflecting at every turn attempts by the city to demolish the structure built in 1913.
Twice this year, the hearings have stalled due to M’Garry’s ill health, but at the most recent appearance Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin left no doubt as to what lies ahead in the Sutherland Saga: the matter will be addressed May 24 with or without M’Garry.
“Mr. McGee should take that into account,” cautioned Hockin.

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What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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Sheba a symptom of the long-neglected animal welfare system in St. Thomas


Pound dogShe has been christened Sheba, after being found abandoned last week in a corn field just outside St. Thomas. Missing much of her fur and blind at this point, the sadly neglected dog “is why we are so concerned about having available funds for vet care for lost pets that come into the city pound,” stresses Lois Jackson, chair of the city’s animal welfare committee and founder of All Breed Canine Rescue.

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Jail term and 10-year ban for St. Thomas man in animal neglect case


A St. Thomas man who abandoned two dogs and a cat in a sweltering apartment with no food or water was sentenced to four months in jail Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, 20-year-old Cody Yeo was slapped with a 10-year prohibition on owning any animal.
In sentencing Yeo, Justice Marietta Roberts – who was handed “graphic” photographs of the squalid apartment unit and the two dead dogs – said she hoped the jail time would act as a deterrent, adding “this is the most appropriate sentence to take you out of the community.”
St. Thomas animal welfare activist Lois Jackson called the term of incarceration “reassuring.”

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There’s specificity in one area, a date in court


city_scope_logo-cmykHeld over for another big year . . . The Sutherland Saga.

Watch the City of St. Thomas and David McGee, owner of Sutherland Lofts, pick up where they left off in 2016 . . . back in court.

That’s right, after issuing another work order late in October against the owner of the four-storey Sutherland Press building, McGee has tossed it back in the city’s corner with the declaration, see you in court.

On October 28, the city slapped a new unsafe building order on McGee with what city manager Wendell Graves called a very specific time line.

“They have until Dec. 15 to provide a detailed work plan and schedule to get the thing remedied and then work has to commence by the 9th of January,” Graves told this corner. Continue reading