Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter nine years, the city finally benefits from a legal determination the Sutherland Press building is, indeed, unsafe but does the ruling from Justice Peter Hockin mean the hostage taking in St. Thomas is nearing a conclusion?
The city has chosen to take a cautious approach, something it can’t be faulted on after a 2008 ruling from Justice David Little triggered partial demolition of the top floor of the four-storey structure. A process halted almost immediately by the same Justice Hockin.
What is most frustrating is the continued lack of movement on the part of owner David McGee since the June 28 decision that upheld a pair of city work orders. Attempts by McGee and his lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, to convince both Hockin and city staff that the financial picture had somehow improved – to the tune of $50,000 – were laughable. 
Surely the unpaid bills would gobble that up in prompt fashion.
M’Garry had indicated to this corner the next step would be dialogue with the city on moving forward.
So, how is that working out?

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No throwing caution to the wind in this chapter of the Sutherland Saga


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Sutherland Saga forecast for next week?
Cautious for the next few days.
With the 30-day appeal period having expired this past week and no indication Sutherland Press building owner David McGee intends to challenge the June 28 decision handed down by Justice Peter Hockin that, in essence, the four-storey downtown edifice is in fact unsafe, is that the wrecker’s ball we hear approaching?
Not so fast, advises city manager Wendell Graves who indicated Friday the city is taking a cautious approach at this time.
He advised while no word has been received from McGee or his lawyer Valerie M’Garry an appeal is in the works, it is better to err on the side of caution while seeking advice from legal counsel. Continue reading

Silently pointing the way atop St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you think all is quiet on the St. Thomas Elevated Park front, all you have to do is look up to see nothing could be further from the truth.
The first of two large sculptures crafted by area artist and blacksmith Scott McKay was positioned in place this week, high above Sunset Drive in readiness for this year’s picnic on Aug. 27.
Entitled Fear Not The Wind, the artwork is an over-size, functional weathervane.
“Because it’s a windy environment up there, the artist came up with the idea of using that wind to make the sculpture move,” explained Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas. “So, a big, overgrown weather vane was the answer. You go to old-fashioned gardens and they put in weather vanes or sun dials and he came up with a weather vane for this garden and I think it’s a cool idea.” Continue reading

After nine years, it’s time to pony up and listen


After nine years of legal wrangling, a bevy of engineering reports, much dizzying debate over semantics and hair-splitting, we finally have a definitive answer from on high.
The Sutherland Press building is unsafe. That’s the determination of Justice Peter Hockin handed down this week along with confirmation building orders issued in 2015 and 2016 have been confirmed as valid.
All right, but now what?
City manager Wendell Graves advised the next step for the city is consultation with legal counsel John Sanders, but “In the absence of any action by the owner, the city will want to make the area safe again as soon as possible.” Continue reading

Thirty days and counting in the Sutherland Saga


“It ain’t over till it’s over,” cautioned baseball legend Yogi Berra.
And truer words were never spoken in reference to the protracted Sutherland Saga. 
A ruling released this week by Justice Peter Hockin confirmed two work orders issued by the city in 2015 and 2016 are valid – a decision based on evidence presented by the city’s legal counsel John Sanders and Valerie M’Garry, representing building owner David McGee, at a June 2nd hearing at the Elgin County courthouse. Continue reading

‘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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Sutherland Saga: ‘The court costs may have exceeded the costs of repair’


city_scope_logo-cmykNeither of the combatants in the City of St. Thomas vs. Sutherland Lofts hearing was the star of the show Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse.
That honour went to his honour, Justice Peter Hockin , who had no qualms about speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and guiding lawyers Valerie M’Garry and John Sanders down the path of least resistance.
Or as he stressed, “I don’t want to spin our wheels on collateral issues.”
Now remember, this is the same Justice Hockin who, in 2008, overturned a ruling from Justice David Little that gave the city the go-ahead to demolish the four-storey structure.
In reference to the boxes of evidence accumulated since then, Hockin cut to the chase. “Is it unsafe right now . . . there were recommendations of what could have been done but never was done.”

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