Insurance dispute delays cleanup of Sherbrook Street fire rubble
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An appeal has been launched of a City of Winnipeg order to remove a massive pile of rubble left behind when fire destroyed a three-storey apartment building nearly a year ago.
Flames ripped through a vacant apartment block at 694 Sherbrook St. on Feb. 14, 2022. Firefighters battled the blaze into the next day and determined the building was so damaged it was at risk of collapsing.
While the structure was demolished, neighbours have complained the fenced-off unsightly rubble is an eyesore.
On Tuesday, a report revealed the City of Winnipeg had issued an order on Dec. 12, 2022, to multiple parties, including numbered companies that appear to own the site. It requires that “all the remains of the building’s structure and foundation” be removed to eliminate hazards at the site no later than Feb. 15, 2023.
“Specifically, as a result of fire, the building has been demolished and the remains of the building’s structure have been left on the property. This deems the property a hazard to people and animals in/around/adjacent to the property and/or risk to possible future occurrences of arson,” the order states.
On Dec. 21, 2022, the lawyer representing Access Credit Union, which does not own the site but holds a mortgage on it, filed an appeal against the order.
In a letter to support the appeal, lawyer Douglas W. Grantham says work at the property has been delayed due to negotiations between Access Credit Union and its insurer.
“This property was destroyed by fire and the insurance company paid to have the building demolished and put in a safe condition, including fencing the entire property. Since then, the insurance company has questioned whether they will provide coverage to the property and it is presently under negotiations between Access Credit Union Limited and their insurer at this time,” wrote Grantham.
The letter argues that since the debris contains a “stable” pile of bricks and cement and is fenced off to prevent public access, it is properly secured.
“In this particular case, the structure is completely demolished, there is no risk of collapse, fire or explosion of any sort. Furthermore, the property is completely fenced, no one can gain access to the property and, therefore, it is our position it is not in an unsafe condition,” wrote Grantham.
The letter also predicts the holdup over discussions with the insurance company “will be resolved in the very near future and then the cleanup of this property will proceed.”
Grantham declined an interview request on Tuesday.
The appeal will be considered by the property and development committee on Jan. 16.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy, whose Daniel McIntyre ward includes 694 Sherbrook St., said such “eyesore” properties pose major concerns for the community and can make an area feel less safe, even if a fence is in place.
“We need to get (this) cleaned up right away. You can’t just demolish a building and let the aftermath just sit there to accumulate even more stuff,” said Gilroy.
The councillor said she wants the city to push for quick action to clean up the site.
“If there’s a (dispute), it (needs to get) dealt with in another way… that doesn’t mean that the public has to adhere to the unsightliness of that rubble sitting there for over a year,” she said.
In November, Gilroy raised a motion that directs city staff to shorten the timeline between when a city demolition permit application is filed and when a building and/or debris can be removed.
She said the motion was partly inspired by the Sherbrook Street site. A report is expected within a few months.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.