Stop-work order halts museum renovations at Sydney bank building

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Stop-work order halts museum renovations at Sydney bank building

A stop-work order has halted plans to turn the old Bank of Montreal building in Sydney, N.S., into a museum after the group spearheading the project began the renovation without first securing a permit.

The Old Sydney Society had applied for a building permit to renovate the 118-year-old landmark on Charlotte Street, but was turned down because the application was inadequate.

"With the original application, they had a hand-drawn sketch, which was rejected," said Paul Burt, who handles building and planning for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

"The plans were not adequate; basically they were not a set of architectural drawings."

'It was really disappointing'

The executive director of the Old Sydney Society, Joyce Rankin, said members were upset when an inspector posted the order on Wednesday.

"It was really disappointing," she said. "We were really looking forward to starting the season off with this new building."

​The building is being turned into a museum that will house some of the society's artifacts. Earlier this month the group said a permanent exhibit was still in the planning stages.

Rankin said the building plans were drawn up pro bono by a retired architect, Bob Ojolick, who then let his licence expire, meaning he can no longer professionally stamp drawings.

"He did not put his architect's stamp on it because there was no structural work," she said. 

'We have a job to do'

Rankin said the work involved tearing down a few partitions and installing bathrooms.

But Burt said it still required proper drawings. He said the category of work falls under a part of the building code where plans must be stamped by either a professional engineer or licensed architect.

Burt said a letter was sent to the Old Sydney Society in January. Three months later, he felt the work had to be stopped.

"I understand why they are discouraged, but at the end of the day, they have a job to do and we have a job to do," he said.

The society has hired someone to redraw the plans, but Rankin said she doesn't know how much time it will take or what it will cost. She doesn't know when the application will be resubmitted or the stop-work order lifted.

The society had hoped to have the museum open to welcome the first cruise ship visitors in Sydney on May 1. Instead, it will use its former location at the Lyceum on George Street.