Prince Rupert council takes action on downtown eyesore despite owners’ protests

Despite protests from the owners of a vacant commercial building Prince Rupert city council unanimously passed a remedial action order for the property on Feb. 26.

Owners Frank and Sal Chirico claimed they were not given any notice about the remedial orders on their 201 Second Avenue West property, which was formerly a convenience store.

The two said they only became aware of the remedial order after a friend noticed it would be on council’s agenda that evening.

“We are blindsided because we don’t know anything about it. We haven’t been contacted specifically to what we’re going to be discussing this evening,” said Frank Chirico.

Frank said there had been communication about the state of the building, though claimed these issues were last discussed in 2021.

“We’re a little perturbed, or taken aback, not to know anything about it. There has been some communication in the past with regards to cleanliness, the presentation of the building,” he said via video at the council meeting.

“We understand that we’ve been in good standing order with the city in regards to this property, we’ve maintained it on a bi-annual visit to the city.”

City manager Rob Buchan disputed the Chiricos’ claims of the city’s lack of notice, saying that the letter indicating the remedial order was indeed delivered to the right property, while also adding that numerous calls were made to encourage action for the vacant building.

Coun. Wade Niesh said that this decision had been coming for a long time as the property was poorly maintained. He pointed to the city’s revitalization agreement grant, which provides funds for downtown business owners to fix exterior blemishes on their properties.

While he called the Second Avenue property “one of the few that could be repaired,” he said the Chiricos’ continued lack of action gave the city no choice but to issue a remedial order.

“This is a property that is in long need of repairs, and this is just a process that we have to go through to further it along,” Niesh said.

“This is not a matter of us just wanting to tear down random buildings, this is a matter of us trying to clean up our downtown and we hope that you can be part of it.”

A similar process occurred during the remedial order of the dilapidated 741 Third Avenue West building, also known as Rose’s, while the Angus Apartments on Second Avenue were given remedial orders last August as well. Rose’s has since been demolished, but the city is still working on the Angus Apartments.

More downtown remedial orders will be on their way for residential and commercial properties according to Mayor Herb Pond, who highlighted the city’s grand plans to beautify the downtown area, something residents have long yearned for.

“The community can expect… that there will be more of these actions taken because it’s part of an overall move towards improving our community,” Pond said.

Coun. Barry Cunningham was curious as to what the Chiricos would do with the property, seeing as it has stood vacant for years.

“If their intentions are to fix it up, I can see council giving a bit of leeway,” he said.

“If their intentions are to stall and stall, then something’s got to be done.”

Cunningham remarked that the owners have multiple properties in town, and doubts that they intend to fully abandon the structure.

The building’s owners will have two weeks to prove to council they will clean up the property, though there was confusion over whether the two-week threshold began when the remedial letter was sent or received.

Another remedial order was passed for the residential 1913 Seventh Avenue property during Monday’s meeting.

Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View