City upholds Sherbrook Street rubble pile clean-up deadline
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It’s a massive pile of rubble city officials say they’ve visited many times over the past year, where some folks have set up camp at times and others have searched for salvageable items among the bricks and debris.
The City of Winnipeg wants it cleaned up within a month.
On Monday, council’s property and development committee denied the appeal of a city order to get 694 Sherbrook St. cleaned up by Feb. 15, leaving in place that deadline to remove all remains of the building’s structure and foundation.
The date was set about a year after fire ripped through a three-storey apartment building Feb. 14, 2022, which ultimately left the structure at risk of collapse.
While the building was demolished in multiple stages since that time, the city says the rubble remaining has created multiple problems.
“This property is very well-known… (it) is on the front-burner, due to the ongoing state,” Rob Clements, a city enforcement services supervisor, told the property committee Monday.
Clements said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service had to tear down parts of the structure to battle the blaze, while the property department also conducted partial demolitions to remove unstable walls later in the year.
Meanwhile, other safety challenges emerged.
“People were using shopping carts tied to ropes and chains to throw over the still-standing walls to pull them down so that they could scavenge materials from the burned-out property,” said Clements.
WFPS also removed a homeless encampment from the site and continues to monitor it, Clements said, stating a fence around the site fails to fully secure it.
He estimated WFPS has now devoted about $37,000 to address safety issues at the site. Winnipeg’s municipal accommodations department spent another $17,000 on demolition efforts, which it plans to charge on property tax bills, Clements added.
Property and development staff have had 94 interactions related to the site, including inspections, emails and other correspondence, while police have also responded to trespassing concerns, he said.
“The city is doing its best to make sure this order gets fulfilled but it has been a… lengthy and expensive process for all involved.”
A report shows the city’s “mitigate unsafe condition” order was sent to multiple individuals and numbered companies, none of whom spoke at the meeting. The appeal was filed by a lawyer for Access Credit Union, a company that doesn’t own the site but holds a mortgage on it.
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, after the insurance company paid to demolish it.
“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 the site is secure, since it is surrounded by a fence. It also states the insurance dispute “will be resolved in the very near future and then the cleanup of this property will proceed.”
Grantham’s office declined comment Monday.
In a brief email, a chief marketing officer with Access Credit Union stressed the company doesn’t own the site.
“Access Credit Union is only the mortgage holder and not the owner of the Sherbrook property and has no obligation to clean up the site. We are not in a position to comment on continuing discussions between the credit union and the insurance company,” wrote Adam Monteith.
The head of council’s property and development committee said delays in clean up have been a source of frustration.
“That’s deeply frustrating… There’s more work to do, obviously. But it is deeply frustrating for local councillors and council as a whole, let alone the neighbours right next door,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins.
She added she is concerned by how much time, effort and money the city has had to devote to ensure the private property is safe. “It is unsightly blight, it is dangerous, there have been many departments attending.”
The property and development committee decision to uphold the city order is final.
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.