Town to get tough with vacant buildings

Darrell Cole
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Town to get tough with vacant buildings

AMHERST - The town may be about to get tough with the owners of several vacant downtown properties.

Amherst town council is expected to receive a proposed vacant buildings bylaw at its June session in hopes of spurring those who own empty and derelict buildings into action.

"We have to do something and we're hoping these people will either fix them up or tear them down," Coun. Terry Rhindress said. "One of our strategic priorities is the beautification of the community, but how can we do that when there are still a number of vacant buildings in the downtown?"

Rhindress has long asked for a stronger response from the town about a number of empty buildings in the downtown core. He said the old police station at the corner of LaPlanche and Victoria, the former Bird's Drapery Building and the old legion building have been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair that they may fall down before they're removed or restored.

Several years ago, the town looked at the number of vacant buildings in the downtown area and found there wasn't much they could do to force the owners to fix them up. Many of the buildings are owned by Halifax area businessperson Alex Tang and have been for sale for a couple of years.

Jason MacDonald, the town's director of planning services, said his staff was asked by council to look at a bylaw that would force those who own the vacant buildings to act.

The town's case was recently given more authority by a provincial law that gives municipalities the power to force building owners to bring them up to a standard or remove them. Municipalities also have the power to purchase the buildings at their market value.

"Because of the vacant buildings downtown and council's priority with beautification asked us to look into that type of a bylaw," MacDonald said. "We are working on a draft for their review."

Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society chair Beth Munroe is encouraged the town is taking a look at the issue.

"It's encouraging they're going to look at a draft bylaw," Munroe said. "The main problem we have is absentee landlords who purchase buildings with plans to do something only to have them fall through. Unfortunately, nothing has been done with the buildings and no one is interested in buying them."

Munroe, who several years ago purchased the vacant customs house and clock tower building, said the town does need to be aware of the economic climate and be cautious not to hinder individuals who do plan to redevelop property or buildings in the area.

Organizations: Amherst town council, Halifax, Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society

Geographic location: AMHERST, LaPlanche, Victoria

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Recent comments

  • asonj
    August 07, 2012 - 09:51

    whats the status on this scenario.

  • new_member of community
    January 18, 2010 - 11:11

    well first of all we should get rid of that trash that hangs around Tims... then fix all the building and put and ice cream parlour

  • Terri
    January 18, 2010 - 11:11

    Let's hope this tough stand on the owners of vacant buildings will expand to the town's slumlords; they are destroying the look of the town by failing to fix up their properties, usually in residential areas. ....

  • J fn B
    January 18, 2010 - 11:04

    This is great news. lets get the bulldozer out and bring the downtown into the 21st century.

  • chico
    January 18, 2010 - 11:01

    new - member who you calling trash THEY ARE PAYING CUST. LIKE ME AND YOU and just how much ice cream do you think people can eat . spend 150.000 to fix building hire people to sell ice cream and go in the hole further to the owners of the buildings sell them the the blueberry king ... now who,s your daddie

  • Lucky Citizen
    January 18, 2010 - 10:58

    Really chico, yes the dumpster divers are paying citizens for 1 coffee a day usually around 8 am when i'm heading to work. At 5 pm when i'm going home they are still there minus the coffee, making lewd comments at people walking by and thinking it's cool to hang out with their kids in a stroller all day. REALLY !!!!!!

  • Barbara
    January 18, 2010 - 10:50

    The downtown Birds building... doesn't that have one of the murals on it? The same murals that the town has been pushing as a tourism attraction. (that's if it's the same building... if not, my bad.)

    The old police station would make a good ice cream parlor... downtown needs one! All the good downtown across Canada have ice cream parlors, and on those hot summer days, people can have a cone while walking around downtown looking at the murals and shopping.

    Or even a tourist information center for Amherst.

    (After this gets settled, maybe start on people who live in yards that look like a junkyard exploded?)

  • danny
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    It would be great to see all the old sandstone buildings restored and functioning. One thing we don't need is a tourist center. There is a big one not two minutes from the building in the photo that is fully staffed and has all the information on the area and Nova Scotia.

  • know it all
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    give them 30 days to fix them up or sell and them the town will have a sales starting at $1.00 and go from there