By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale will be moving forward with the demolition of a property near the museum.
During a regular Jan. 18 meeting, Coaldale town council discussed how to move forward with a piece of property on 20 Street by the Gem of the West Museum.
According to accompanying documents, back in 2015, town council had made a resolution to acquire the property at 1322 20 Street for $180,000 plus the cost of demolition. However, administration was unable to reach an agreement with the owners at that time.
In 2020, the property at 1322 20 Street was brought up again, although this time the town would be in partnership with a group interested in refurbishing and reclaiming the house back to its original state, so it would act as a historical building that would help promote the town’s history, including the possibility of a Mennonite restaurant. The property was ultimately purchased by the town through a court-ordered sale process for $252,000.
Since then, due to the pandemic, the group interested in restoring the property have backed away, and if major renovations aren’t completed to the property, which houses four illegal apartments, it will need to be demolished.
A permanent funding source that would be used to code the land sale has not yet been determined, and it will need to be done before town administration can complete its fiscal year-end. An accompanying report from CAO Kalen Hastings suggested in the long-term, the property could be used to provide additional parking space for the Gem of the West Museum and the adjacent cemetery, and having a cleaned-up property along Highway 845 would provide the town with options for the site in the future, such as an expanded outdoor space that could be used as an extended memorial/green space.
The report noted if council decides to retain the property for the time being, in order to keep longer term options open, they could always change their minds and sell the property later on – although Hastings did caution he believed it would be short-sighted to sell the property before conducting a longer-term assessment of the area, as properties like this are difficult to obtain and “the risk of letting it go in the absence or greater analysis is council loses the ability to plan how the north corridor of Coaldale and the ultimate programmable vision of the area can work.”
The report suggested three options: 1) council retain ownership of 1322 20 Street and fund the expense of said ownership as follows – land sale purchase ($252,000) be coded to the town’s land sale reserve account, and the cost of demolition be coded to the town’s cemetery reserve account; 2) council direct administration to demolish the building (at an estimated cost of $50,000) and list it for sale under strict parameters; and 3) council list the property for sale.
“What we need, as administration, is direction from council on where to go from here with the property,” said Hastings.
Administration recommended council goes with Option 1, and during discussions, Coun. Doreen Lloyd made a motion to proceed with Option 1. Coun. Jacen Abrey said he would speak against the motion, as he didn’t feel they were in a position as (a) town or council to be putting any more money into the property, and he would rather the town sell the property. Coun. Roger Hohm also spoke against the motion, and asked if they had any contract with the group interested in restoring the property when the town brought it up last year, as he would like to see if they could get some money out of them. If not, Hohm also said he would be in favour of selling the property. Mayor Kim Craig said he believed the report had said it was an informal group set up, and not a legal entity formed to purchase the land.
“At the time council considered the potential project, it was more of a, the initial stages of a project coming together that had a lot of promise and hope to it, especially because it was right in the early New Year last year, and then within weeks after that, the pandemic got its grip on things, and the ability for that group to generate any more interest in coming together and making that project a reality evaporated,” said Craig. “There is no legal entity we have a verbal or written agreement with to that end.” Coun. Briane Simpson noted right now the property is zoned for residential use, so if they sold it, it would become another residence and she didn’t think that area is meant for that anymore. She said the area did need to be cleaned up, and after they moved forward with the steps outlined in the motion and demolished the property, they can decide what to do with the land – but they should rezone it before they sell it.
Craig spoke in favour of the motion, and although he did note it was sad the original idea couldn’t come together, they had acquired the property for a “strategic purpose” and it needs a thorough thought process on what to do with it now.
“That’s a fairly key piece, Gateway and Corridors property for Coaldale, so I’m in support of it and I recognize it was unfortunate it didn’t come to fruition, and that would have been awesome, but that’s the way life goes.” Coun. Bill Chapman noted in the report it said a resolution on the property was made in 2015, and said he thought before that, the museum board had been looking at acquiring the property for future purposes, and they were at a prime stage for that property.
Hohm said if Chapman remembered correctly, as they were both councillors at that time, they had discussed and decided if they paid more than $180,000 on a piece of land they’d have to demolish, they “paid too much for it” because they had no real use for it.
Abrey also noted they would be taking money out of capital accounts, and during budget deliberations they decided not to do that as “you are robbing from one account for something else.” As they didn’t know the cost of demolition, although it was likely to be pricey once you account for factors like asbestos and other containments, they could be spending up to $350,000 “We’re looking to try to save money.
We’re taking from the cemetery fund, we know this will never be part of the cemetery. I agree it’s part of the Gateway and Corridors, but let’s let investors invest in our community. We shouldn’t always be thinking it’s got to be us. We’re investing a lot in our Main Street. Now, if we start investing down in Highway 845, thats going to be down Highway 3, so I really think we need to be careful with how much we want to spend,” said Abrey. “This is an unbudgeted pressure already in our first meeting of 2021. So we’ve got to be careful, if we start approving extra costs every budget meeting. So we’re at $100,000 over budget, without raising our taxes, we’re going to have to really watch on how we’re spending.”
In response to an ask for clarification, Hastings said the land sale reserve account is primarily funded throughout sales from the northeast Industrial Park, and in the last two months there’s been about 10 sales in that account, so they’ve been doing quite well from a sales perspective there. For part of the recommendation made, Hastings said if you hang onto a piece of land until you think of what you want to do long-term with the area, you still have the option to sell it later, and he cautioned council doesn’t rush to make a decision one way or another until after they can consider the longterm framework for the area.
Craig noted they could also code the purchase, get the accounting right, and then bring it back to council at a later date to discuss it. Abrey agreed with doing that, although Craig noted they currently have a motion on the floor to vote on.
Simpson said her concern with not demolishing the property is they would still have to rezone it, and she has received a lot of complaints over how the property looks. If they demolished the property, they could always put that cost in the price if they decided to sell it, and it would be easier for a potential buyer to “work from a blank page” rather then figure out how to work with the building or demolish it themselves.
Council passed a motion to go with Option 1 in a split 5-2 vote, with Abrey and Hohm voting against the motion.