Mount Forest petition requests town address 'neglected' Main St. buildings

MOUNT FOREST – A new petition wants the township and local authorities to take action against building neglect on Main Street to create a more visually appealing downtown for new and existing residents.

Fronted by the owner of the Hybrid Hair and Detox Spa and Gallery (HHDS) and Mount Forest Green Team member, Erin Kiers said she created the petition because she felt disheartened by the "visible neglect, decay and disrepair" of some buildings on Main Street.

The online petition has almost reached 150 of its 200-signature goal. Another physical copy is available to sign in the salon.

"Our Main Street buildings are in dire need of attention. This neglect has led not only to safety issues but also negative impacts on our town's representation," said Kiers, in the petition. "These buildings could serve as potential development opportunities for affordable housing or diversifying our businesses - if only they were properly maintained."

According to Kiers, the current streetscape makes it look like the community doesn't care and wastes opportune space for sustainable and successful business and residential options that cater to all the town's economic needs.

Addressing the visible building neglect on Main Street would also help alleviate housing shortages locally while improving safety standards she said.

"This petition is not to piss people off...it's because this is where my heart is and I think there's a lot of people like me, that care a lot about their town," said Kiers. "This is my hometown. And so (people like me) feel a sense of protectiveness and nurturing towards our town because we want it to be successful."

Kiers specifically called out 178 Main St. S., also known as the old tea room and 305 John St. on the corner of Highway 6 and 89, also known as the former 'Mr Softee location which she said have both been left to "wreck and ruin."

In Kiers' mind, the township needs to enforce its penalty fee for owners who don't maintain their properties as a preventative measure.

Last August, the chair of the Mount Forest BIA also filed a complaint with the township about 178 Main St. S. creating a poor aesthetic in the downtown business core.

"The way I look at it, if my neighbour's grass got too long or your weeds got too high, we could complain to the city and they will come and cut it down and that person gets a bill...they should not be allowed to just abandon a property like that and leave it in that state," said Kiers.

According to the township bylaws regarding property standards, exterior properties are expected "to be free from dilapidated or collapsed buildings…or other unsafe condition or unsightly condition out of character with the surrounding environment."

If an order of a property standards officer is not followed, the township may cause the property to be repaired at the cost of the person or demolished accordingly.

In an emailed statement, CAO Brooke Lambert said the township is aware of concerns about some properties in the core areas, as this is a theme they have heard through delegations at council and in some of the advisory committee meetings.

While she couldn't answer specific questions about particular buildings mentioned in the petition, Lambert said staff have been in regular contact with several of the owners and continue to work within their abilities to ensure compliance with our by-laws and property standards.

As for the Mr. Softee building, she said the town has been working with the owner’s representative, communicated their concerns on several occasions and confirmed the owners have a maintenance plan to "deal with the site."

"We are doing our best to support the family during a challenging period in the hopes that a resolution can be found in the coming months. Balancing the needs of all our community members is top of mind for the township and we continue to work with all parties to be fair, reasonable and compassionate," said Lambert, in an emailed statement. "Community safety is our first priority and we take all measures to address related concerns immediately."

The owners of 178 Main St. S., Caledon-based A&M Investments did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In addition to the petition, Kiers is participating in several neighbourhood clean-up and beautification efforts during April through the Green Team.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com