Imperial Oil holds permit to demolish homes: alderman

A Calgary alderman says Imperial Oil has a permit to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes sitting on contaminated land in Lynnview Ridge.

A Calgary alderman says Imperial Oil has a permit to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes sitting on contaminated land in Lynnview Ridge.

The southeast neighbourhood, which was built on the site of an Imperial Oil refinery, is nearly deserted. Imperial Oil started buying homes from residents in 2001 after tests revealed high levels of lead.

Today, families only occupy 11 homes on a ridge with panoramic views of downtown Calgary and the mountains.Another 235 homes and townhouses are vacant.

Crews are currentlyturning off gas and water lines to the vacant homes, while talks are underway between the City of Calgary and Imperial Oil about what will be done with the land.

Joe Ceci, the alderman for the area, said a demolition permit has been approved for the empty houses Imperial Oil owns.

Once those homes are torn down, they will not be rebuilt nor will the area be zoned for industrial or commercial use, he said.

"Imperial doesn't want to re-engage in any residential rezoning or anything that would cause an ongoing liability. So we'll be looking at some passive use of the balance of the land. I don't know if that is park or whatever, but that is probably the direction in this case."

Remaining residents prefer park

Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, won't comment on the company's discussions with the city or its plans for Lynnview Ridge.

Rolheiser said a final decision on the fate of the empty homes has not been made.

Barry Bickford is one of the few people who chose to stay.

"We would like to see it turned into some kind of green space area, either a park of some kind or perhaps a golf course or ball diamonds."

Cleanup moves slowly

Meanwhile, cleanup ofcontaminationamong the occupiedhomesis taking longer than expected.

Ridge resident Loren Guenette said Imperial Oil recently dug up hisyard, but the company has yet to lay down sod, complete the deck, replace fencing or do any landscaping.

Guenette says he was told the work would be done by November.

"I think they found more contamination than they anticipated and to that extent it meant more cleanup," he said.

Alberta Environment spokesman Jay Litke said in addition to lead, three pockets of hydrocarbons were found in the neighbourhood.

"So it did slow the process down and as a result, we're not really completed on the ridge right at the moment."

Weather to blame for slow progress

Imperial Oil spokesperson Pius Rolheiser blamed the environment for the delays.

"Recent cold weather is certainly a major factor. We were not able to complete the restoration work on the decks and fences etc. as we had anticipated," he said.

Rolheiser said Imperial Oil plans to have that work done sometime next year.

In the meantime, Alberta Environment is waiting for test results to determine whether the cleanup was successful.

Imperial Oil won't say how much the cleanup will cost, but it's expected to be in the millions of dollars.

The company has to replace at least the top 30 centimetres of soil around each of the properties still occupied, as well aslawns, decks and fences.