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Owners commit to cleaning up Woodland Park site

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
November 18th, 2009

Photo of Woodland Park school fire in June, by Kyra Hoggan.

Clean up is all set for the site of Castlegar’s Woodland Park Elementary School, an abandoned building that burned to the ground last June in a fire set by youth vandals (five of whom have since been arrested).

John Vicars, spokesman for the group of owners of the site (Twin Rivers Estates), said in an interview today that, while this wasn’t the direction they would have chosen, they’re ready to comply with city dictates on the matter.

“We’re disappointed that we can’t wait and do it as part of development (of the site), but of course we’ll get it done,” he said. “We want to be good citizens and good neighbours.”

The City of Castlegar, earlier this month, sent the owners a notice requesting the rubble be removed and the foundation demolished and removed or filled in with backfill. Failure to comply would have seen the city undertaking the work and billing the owners.

The issue became a contentious one when, after the fire, the owners fenced the property and commissioned a custom-made tarp to cover the debris-filled foundation, with the intention of holding off on a complete clean-up until development of the site moved forward.

A meeting of neighbourhood residents held Sept. 24 saw city councillor Deb McIntosh and city planning and development director Phil Markin fielding complaints from unhappy residents, who saw the site as potentially dangerous, and an eyesore in the neighbourhood.

“We heard what (residents) had to say and we agreed with them,” said councillor Russ Hearne. “Kids can get over a fence …once (the site) is covered in snow, it will look safe and inviting … and it’s construction and fire debris under only a tarp.”

Resident George Penfold, who instigated and chaired the September public meeting, said he felt the city stepped up to the plate in dealing with the issue, and although the process did take months, he appreciates the favourable outcome.

“Obviously, that response by the city was congruent with the sentiments expressed by the neighbourhood residents,” he said. “There were two sets of concerns at the meeting. One was the state the site was in after the fire …this will address that concern, certainly, although I’ll be feeling a lot more comfortable when it’s actually done the way the city has proposed it should be done.

“What’s still outstanding, that we discussed at the meeting, is what will happen with the site in terms of development. We’ll be interested to see what that proposal will look like, when it comes along.”

Vicars said he understands resident curiosity about the ultimate fate of the site – but due process and due dilligence must be first observed.

“We’re moving forward now on developing the site, but we don’t have any information to give out just yet,” he said. “There are studies to be done and permits to obtain before we’re ready to publicly announce the next steps (for the property).”

He did say, though, that development permit applications have been submitted and are being processed right now by the city.

Categories: General

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