Getting tough with vacant buildings

Darrell Cole
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Town considers vacant building bylaw

AMHERST - Amherst council got its first look at a proposed vacant buildings bylaw and has asked for it to be sent for further study.
"Judging by the reaction we've had here today I'd say we have something to work with. Now we have to have staff go back and see what we can change to make it even better," Mayor Robert Small said during Monday's June committee of the whole meeting. "We're also going to have it reviewed by the solicitor."
The proposed bylaw, expected to be brought forward for first reading later this year, would set a period of time that a derelict building, once identified, must be brought up to habitable condition.
It also allows for a maximum period of time that a building's windows can be boarded up and gives the town the authority to acquire a building should it desire.
Planner Jason MacDonald told council that the bylaw would give the town the ability to have a number of derelict buildings, especially in the downtown core, brought back to a useable state. Along with requiring owners to fix the buildings' exterior, it would also require them to fix the interior as well.
"There's nothing we can do to make someone utilize a building. All we can do is require them to bring it back to a habitable condition if it's a residence or a useable condition if it's a commercial building," MacDonald said, adding existing derelict buildings will have to be fixed up after the bylaw eventually passes.
The proposed bylaw would use the same process as the unsightly premises bylaw with council having the final say on whether the town would order a building demolished or acquire it.
MacDonald said the town could enforce an order on a property and bill it back to the owner, it could fine the owner for not being in compliance, order it to be demolished or take possession of the property if the owner refuses to sell or redevelop the building.
Coun. George Baker is concerned with the thought of the town acquiring property, adding he doesn't think the town should be in the real estate business while Coun. Dale Fawthrop suggested the bylaw is a good first step.
"This is an excellent idea," he said. "If we're going to move forward with beautification there are some eyesores downtown that need to be dealt with."
Fawthrop said it's important to have active buildings in the community meaning buildings that are being used. He's concerned that even though some buildings are not unsightly they aren't being used.

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Recent comments

  • Finally Something is goin
    January 18, 2010 - 11:18

    I commend the town for their action and hope the process will not take too much time. Indeed individuals like Mr Wells should be made to clean up their buildings, however unfortunately he has enough $$$$$ he could tie the town up in court for years. This is however a greater danger, that being when the town allows people like Mr Wells and the gentlemen from Truro to continue to purchase buildings, some on main street without any plan to develop, just to own. When a potential buyer wishes to buy commercial property there should be required to disclose plans for these properties, and not leave these buildings empty for years ie. old police station, buildings across from Amherst Music Store the former Riddles, former Hurst building, the Wells home on Victoria Street where the columns are held together with chains. What a shame how many charities and people in such need could benefit from the wealth on one.

  • Amherst
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    I wonder if this will include the numerous buildings that Walter Wells owns and fills with junk. So far the town has allowed Mr. Wells to create fire traps all over town.

  • Bruce
    January 18, 2010 - 11:12

    Congratulation is in order to Mayor Robert Small and town council for there effort in improving the down town appearance

    The business and entertainment landscape in downtown Amherst is really coming together with an anchor now at both ends of Victoria Street. I am speaking of the new Lawsons drug store and offices as well as dayles dept. store. I would like to see them put back the little house, if any one remembers it. This store is an absolute marvel and we should be proud to have it.

    We have one person to thank for improving two building and many other things for improving our town.

    Lets get together and show our graduate by passing by-laws suggested at this meeting. A tax incentive or tax credit should be offered to those persons having unsightly properties first and then if they do not respond than do what you have to.

    The tourist industry has a very short period and we should not dwell on it instead support the downtown landscape.

  • bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
    January 18, 2010 - 11:10

    maybe you should read up on harrastment. as in my eyes you are harassing those people . so if it bothers you don't go by tim hortin's. so for ask him read up.

  • my buildings
    January 18, 2010 - 11:06

    some people have nothing better to do then worrie what there neighbour is doing or what he has to some this is there lively hood to others they hate to see people get a head (of them) KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES SO TO SPEAK enough of this i got grass to mow NOW WHAT MOWER WILL I USE TODAY SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM LOL

  • newsgirl
    January 18, 2010 - 11:05

    It is about time the town chased down the owners of all those empty buildings and ordered them to either do something with them or get out of the land lord game. They look like hell and block any future development of the town core.

    How many of those empty buildings are owned by Tang Dynasty Investments? I remember he went on a shopping spree a few years back and bought several buildings. When my wagon left town, the only building he owned that was being used for anything was the old Dominion Building.

    Walter Wells is another collector of empty old buildings.

    Might be interesting if the Amherst Daily did up a list of what is empty and who owns it....

  • my buildings
    January 18, 2010 - 11:04

    all i am saying is lets do this the wright way and not cram laws on people that are un reachable mr baker is on the wright track maybe the others should follow it not a small small town

  • Enough lip service
    January 18, 2010 - 11:00

    There will no doubt be lots of opposition to this proposed bylaw from people like 'my buildings' and others that own derelict property in town. But if we are going to stop the talk and actually try to make real change, the property owners without the means or the will to redevelop DT properties have to move on.

  • askhim
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    How about we do a whole revamp of Amherst.

    Instead of just cleaning up the vacant lots, we also get rid of the trash down town.

    To be honest, I would rather look at an ugly empty building than look and smell the people outside Tim Horton's. That bothers me worse!

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:49

    this by-law sounds really good but practically speaking it will be a useless piece of paper. The town already has the power under the municipal gov't act (unsightly premises) to force owners to fix buildings exterior. Quote *Beyond requiring owners to fix the buildings exterior, it would also require them to fix the interior as well*

    My question is this...*to what extent will the requirements be* ... I get the sense they won't amount to a whole lot.

    And the town performing the work themselves? they have that right currently under the unsightly premises provisions of the act.

    I think a better idea would actually to speak to the owners. this law seems more intent on harassing the owners. And fine its used against these corporate dudes but you know what it'll more likely be used against you the regular joe who owns a piece of property that has nothing to do with commercial interests.

    Good intentions but bad approach.

  • my buldings
    January 18, 2010 - 10:44

    BOB well put thankyou

  • Peter
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    Maybe the bylaw should be extended to include the surrounding property of the derelict buildings as well. It would be nice to see people held accountable for the piles of junk & abandoned vehicles in their un-kempt yards.

  • DJ
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    I think the proposed by-law is a great idea. There are far too many buildings that are falling into dangerous condition because they are not being used for anything. Buildings should either be used and kept up or torn down, especially in the downtown core. Everyone talks about re-vitalizing the downtown but then you get people making comments like the first one who suggest the status quo is just fine.

    If we want to improve tourism to this area this problem needs to be addressed. We also need to address the situation from the Tourist Bureau at the border into the Town of Amherst. Of course that will require some co-operation between the County and the Town.

  • my buildings
    January 18, 2010 - 10:36

    some people are quick to point the finger like i sain be careful what you wish for . tax credit wont work you already robbed peter for the y (peter the people pf amherst) and for touris bureau where did the train go from amherst to fort laurance then out side of town WAKE UP PEOPLE OF AMHERST YOU ARE GING ABOUT THIS ALL WRONG listen to your elders councel

  • Property
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    A quick search on Property Online shows that Tang owns the following: 10 Princess St and the parking lot on Havelock st; 5 Havelock st (Bird's); old police station; Dominion Building and parking lot behind; 10 Laplance (Knight's of something I don't know how to spell- their old building)
    There you have it!!!

  • my buildings
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    i think this info should be put out to the people of amherst to see what they say some cant afford to do any thing in these tough times and some buildings are just for storage i think mr baker has the wright idea how to go about this DOSE OR CAN AMHERST AFFORED A LAW SUIT be careful what you wish for