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Old gym, former growop in Maple Ridge to be torn down

Fire chief Dane Spence walks past the crumbling gym following an inspection in April last year. - The News/Files
Fire chief Dane Spence walks past the crumbling gym following an inspection in April last year.
— image credit: The News/Files

The old gym at 11715 – 224th Street is on borrowed time and has only days to live before the heavy equipment moves in and turns it into a heap of rubble.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, though, is wondering what took so long.

Despite electrical, building and fire reports from a year ago saying the building is a disaster waiting to happen, Ashlie was wondering how to explain why it took so long to get on council’s agenda.

“What is our explanation to the public that a significant hazard like this has been allowed to exist. Like what’s our explanation? Because I think we owe the public that.”

At what point did the building become that dangerous, she asked.

If the building had caught fire and someone had died, “this would be a very different conversation if there was a loss of life. I would have a hard time explaining to my public,” that council knew last year about the condition of the building, she said at Monday’s council workshop.

She wants Maple Ridge to figure out a way to respond more quickly to such buildings.

Council was considering a lengthy staff report on the building and voted Tuesday to order the takedown. Because of the condition of the building, the usual period for the work to be done has been reduced from 30 to 10 days.

If after 10 days the building’s still around, Maple Ridge can hire its own contractor to remove the building and put the costs on to the property tax bill.

Chief administrative officer Jim Rule said staff inspected the building last spring and thought the owner would have made some improvements.

In addition, reports, inspections and legalities have to be completed properly to avoid court challenges.

“Sometimes we could be probably quicker,” in responding, but it often depends on the bylaws department workload.”

But once they know an owner isn’t responding they usually move as soon as possible, he added.

The owner of the property, Parmjit Kaur Niger, was contacted March 31 and asked to demolish the building, but the district got no response.

Coun. Linda King said Monday that the building is so dangerous, firefighters wouldn’t enter it during a fire, which could risk the life of anyone inside at the time.

“We have a scenario for loss of life in this building.” All you need is a crowbar and you’re inside the building, she added.

“It’s a dangerous structure and we should have taken it down a long time ago. The sooner we get the building down, the better.”

And with lots of bad nights and bad weather and easy access to the building, homeless people could be sleeping inside. A fire safety report points out that the building has been found insecure seven times since 2008.

Part of the demolition order also requires the owner to get a geotechnical report to analyze how the building demolition would affect the neighbouring property, especially 224th Street.

Staff say there have been numerous complaints about the building dating back to 2006, while in November 2008, a marijuana grow operation with 500 plants was found in the basement.

Although the building owner was required to get building, gas, electrical and plumbing inspections, she failed to do so. Nor did she comply with the request to remove any contaminants associated with pot growing from the building, said a staff report.

Pictures included in the file show stucco falling off the exterior the building while the report says water’s getting inside and interior walls are “heavily covered with mold.”

A fire inspection points out the fire separation wall no longer exists while old newspapers and garbage provide easy tinder for a blaze.

“Firefighters will not be able to enter this structure to safely fight a fire or rescue anyone that may be inside the structure,” fire chief Dane Spence wrote in his report.

It should be repaired or demolished immediately, he concluded.

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