Council approves 199 Queens Ave. demolition, but building could still be saved
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
City council has approved demolition of downtown building that some in the community would like to see saved for its heritage aspects — but that doesn’t mean it will ever see the wrecking ball.
During their meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 30), councillors overwhelmingly approved (11-1) a demolition application by Farhi Holdings to take down a building at 199 Queens Ave. that is located in the city’s proposed downtown heritage district. However, the permit was granted with what was called “a good faith amendment” that community interests who have come forward to save the building in a new location can work out a deal with owner Shmuel Farhi.
Ward 6 Councillor Nancy Branscombe brought forward the offer to relocate the building and said the constituent who has come forward was concerned about what they see an expedited demolition process.
“This constituent that’s come forward to take Mr. Farhi up on his offer to actually relocate the heritage structure, they were concerned about what they perceive as this expedited demolition permit,” Branscombe said. “They are quite serious about this and I just want to be sure we are going to give them enough time to explore the possibility of doing this before the demolition.”
George Kotsifas, managing director development and compliance services, explained there would be time for the two sides to attempt to find an agreement around relocation of the building. Kotsifas said Farhi has the right to put off demolition for up to six months before the city would begin to consider revocation of the permit.
“There would be ample time to consider any proposals that come forward. But it is his prerogative to do so; it has nothing to do with us at that point,” Kotsifas said. “There is no legal reason to withhold the permit. We could talk to Mr. Farhi to see if he could take some time to not demolish it.”
Branscombe said she didn’t know if the proposal was viable or not, but that she wanted to know the two side had the time to see if agreement could be reached. Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant was also concerned with time, but not from the case of this particular proposal.
Bryant said she was concerned this option had presented itself far sooner than the 40-60 days the public had been informed of during the public participation meeting around the property. Although it would later be defeated 9-2, Bryant put forward a motion to have the demolition decision delayed until the discussion could return to the next planning meeting.
“This is premature. I think we should refer this back to the timing that was expected by the people who were here,” Bryant said. “If this is the way we go, fine, but the process was cut short after the public participation meeting and that is just not reasonable.”
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser was more aggressive in supporting approval of the demolition request. Calling the structure “a dog’s breakfast of a building,” Orser said Farhi should be allowed to proceed with the building in whatever timeline he saw fit.
“If someone wants to save (the building), that’s great. The bottom line is it is covered in graffiti, it is unrentable, it is unusable because of accessibility problems. Now we have a letter with no commitment to move it and they are asking for the time,” Orser said. “It is time to allow him to demolish it. If someone wants it, they will find a spot for it fast. Let’s get on with it. We have to let business do the business of business.”
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