The City of Merritt is considering taking action against the owners of a downtown property posing both a nuisance and a hazard to the public.

The property at the corner of Voght Street and Coutlee Avenue, owned by IPL Developments, is the former site of Mirror Vintage antique store, and before that, Yuen On Lung general store.

But for the last year-and-a-half, the site in a prominent and highly-visible location downtown has featured a series of lopsided fencing, a ‘sidewalk closed’ sign, and in a state of partial demolition.

A demolition permit was issued to the previous owner of the property in March 2022, with work beginning the following month. The property changed hands that May, purchased by IPL Developments Ltd., before work was stopped.

It was never completed, leaving a large artificial opening in the ground, formerly the basement of the building on the property. Since then, the adjacent sidewalk has been closed by the city, due to a concern with the structural integrity of the ground beneath it.

The permit has since expired, with no additional permits applied for by the developer since. Multiple attempts have been made by city staff to contact the developer, the latest in July of this year, to no avail.

“We’ve been trying to get a hold of these people since May, so I think we’ve been fairly patient with this,” said Mayor Mike Goetz at the Nov. 28 regular city council meeting.

Representatives of the development group were also contacted by city staff multiple times with an invite to attend the meeting either in-person or virtually, with no response.

“The property currently poses a public nuisance due to the open excavation and the walls of the partially demolished structure which are collapsing,” reads a report from Director of Corporate Services Linda Brick. “As a result of the open excavation the structure and integrity of the adjacent city sidewalk has been undermined.”

Desperate times often call for desperate measures – the Community Charter grants the local government the authority to require an owner to remove, demolish, alter, or otherwise deal with a matter when there is an identified hazardous condition or declared nuisance in relation to a natural or artificial opening in the ground, that is so dilapidated or unclean as to be offensive to the community.

An ultimatum can be granted for remedial action to be taken to fix the property, and if not completed, the work can be done by the City at the expense of the owner.

“I think that something should be done, definitely,” said Councillor Wendy Charney. “This is an absolute eyesore. They’ve been given several chances to address it…not only is it unsightly, it is very dangerous.”

Goetz shared the councillor’s sentiments.

“It’s unconscionable that somebody buys a piece of property in a community that they don’t live in and leaves it looking like this. The message here is that if you’re an out-of-town property owner, you will be held accountable for what that property looks like. You are not going to treat this community like a garbage can, it’s simply not gonna happen.”

Council voted all in favour for a registered letter to be drawn up and served to the developer, giving them 30 days from the day served to take remedial action on the property.