The fate of a rundown property located at 1102-106th St. was back before North Battleford council on Monday.
At the meeting council heard the latest appeal from property owner Zia Waraich of Zia Homes, Ltd., seeking to save the property from demolition. It ended up being a tense meeting, with councillors peppering Waraich with questions about his plans to rehabilitate the property.
Following the presentation, council then met in a half-hour in-camera session behind closed doors to discuss the issue further.
In the end, there was no public decision announced and it is not immediately clear in the aftermath of the meeting what the next steps are for the city in addressing the dilapidated property.
The city has been attempting for months to take action against the property, starting with the issuing of a demolition order on Aug. 27, 2020.
The order came in the wake of a building inspection report from Aug. 25, 2020, that cited numerous deficiencies, including broken windows, cracked and missing siding, broken doors, boarded up windows and doors, concerns that the garage wall could collapse, and problems with the interior including broken or missing light fixtures.
Warriach then appealed that order to council, who turned it down at their Sept. 28 meeting.
After that decision, Waraich took the city to court and got a favourable ruling from the Court of Queen’s Bench, which ruled that council must rehear the appeal.
That re-hearing took place Monday. In speaking to council, Wariach said he wanted to perform repairs on the property at 106th Street
However, it was clear Monday there are still major concerns about the state of the building. In a memo, City Planner Ryan Mackrell described the property as “in a ruinous and dilapidated state of repair that is also unoccupied and damaged, and is an imminent danger to public safety.”
Waraich has insisted throughout that he will be able to repair the property to standard. Earlier this year on Feb. 18, Waraich provided the city a structural assessment report from BAR Engineering dated Nov. 18, 2020, outlining the major repairs needed, as well as an estimate from Straight Line Contractors estimating repairs to be $91,020. Also submitted was an estimate for 1461-101st St. for $156,651. The timeline indicated by Straight Line Contractors to repair 1102-106th Street was around two months.
But council raised concerns Monday about those estimates. Councillor Kelli Hawtin said she had not noticed any quotations to address any electrical issues or for smoke alarms.
Waraich tried to assure Hawtin that everything would be done in accordance with city bylaws and any deficiencies would be addressed.
Also raised by Hawtin and other councillors were the number of times RCMP members had frequented the property.
Councillors were provided correspondence between City Manager Randy Patrick and Battlefords RCMP Inspector Tom Beck, which indicated RCMP officers had attended the 106th St. residence 14 times between May 2019 and August 2020.
Beck had written to Patrick that there was execution of a warrant under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act in May 2019. In Feb. 2020, the RCMP executed an arrest warrant.
Circulated at council was correspondence from area residents. One resident described the property as an “eyesore to our city,” while two others noted the property was subject of a police raid. One resident said she believed the property was a “gang house” that dealt in drugs and prostitution.
Council members seemed particularly alarmed that the owner had not known of the RCMP activity. Councillor Len Taylor asked Waraich if he was aware of “even one visit by the RCMP” to the property.
Waraich responded he wasn’t.
“No one told me, honestly,” he said.
“What happened in the past is past, I’m sorry,” said Waraich, who added that the property manager hadn’t informed him.
“Well, the property management in your employ … failed to notify you or take any action 14 times with RCMP arriving at that property,” said Taylor. “One of those occasions, the RCMP blew out the windows because there were firearms in the property along with children!”
Waraich insisted the property manager “never informed me.”
Taylor then asked whether there were any signed leases with tenants. Waraich again pointed to the property manager and said it was the job of the property manager to have signed the lease.
“There’s one person in the corporation — that’s you, sir, you had the responsibility,” Taylor responded.
Councillor Greg Lightfoot pointed out to Waraich that with “every comment you had made, you commented that it was the responsibility of the property manager. With that being said, you are the only person on the corporation. If you’re the only person in the corporation you are 100 per cent fully responsible for your property manager. So if you don’t have a handle on your property manager in the last 10 years, how are we expected to believe that you’re going to have a handle on any of these properties whether it be here in North Battleford, Calgary or any place in the future?”
Waraich responded he was “making a commitment in front of you … my words.”
“Just give me a chance, because I wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation.”
“For not having your handle on the gravity of the situation is your responsibility, it’s your fault,” responded Lightfoot.
Lightfoot later said the only way he would consider having the property rejuvenated was to “make sure it is a valid quote that was done by a professional to make sure all of the codes are done, and that it is accepted by our permit office to make sure it’s going to go through the correct procedures that need to be done to be fixed up to code to make sure it is going to withstand the test of time.”
Mayor David Gillan characterized Waraich’s record with the city as “long” and “not very impressive.”
Gillan asked Waraich, “What assurance can you give this council that you will renovate this property to code as required and the time frames as required by the city, and I don’t just mean your verbal assurance, sir.”
Waraich responded he could give the city a surety bond or a document in writing as part of his pledge to repair the property.
Gillan also informed Waraich that just because he had a quote from a construction company did not mean that was the end of the work.
“The city will set the standards and timeframe and you’ll need to meet them.”