'State of decline': Demolition permits outnumber building permits in CBRM
There are as many as 600 vacant buildings across the Cape Breton Regional Municipality
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality plans to demolish about 30 derelict buildings this fall that it says are unsightly, a fire hazard and a target for vandals.
Many of the buildings are former company homes that housed workers for the coal mines and the Sydney Steel plant.
They're spread out across the municipality, with most in Glace Bay, Sydney, Sydney Mines and New Waterford.
"They're everywhere," said District 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger. "It's hard enough now to sell properties and values are dropping, and this doesn't help. It's a major concern for people."
Along Victoria Road in Whitney Pier, Richard MacEwan points to a cluster of three buildings that are boarded up, including one that used to house the office of his father, longtime MLA Paul MacEwan.
"Some kids are gonna come by and burn them, or acts of vandalism are gonna take them down in time," said MacEwan. "So it's good for the municipality to act on it now."
Paul Burt, the manager of building, planning and licensing bylaws for CBRM, said the population has declined because of the closure of Sydney Steel and coal mines, and younger people heading west for work.
"That's one of the reasons we're being faced with so many of these abandoned properties, because there's nobody left to take over responsibility for them," he said.
Owners of 29 properties have been given one last chance to fix the buildings up over the next 30 days to stave off demolition.
In another four cases, owners have 90 days to begin making repairs.
The buildings are the worst on a long list of as many as 600 vacant buildings across the municipality.
"I don't have an exact number," said Burt. "As we demolish 10, there's usually 10 more added to the list."
Money for demolitions
The municipality bills property owners for the demolitions when it can, but it has a budget of $120,000 per year for demolitions in cases where the owner is deceased or the property has been abandoned.
Each time a building is torn down, there's a loss of tax revenue.
"The assessment value might not be that high to begin with, but there is some value to them," said Burt.
"We lose revenue because the tax base is going down, we lose revenue because people aren't paying taxes on these properties and because there's a cost to CBRM to be responsible for other people's properties."
And there's no sign that the trend will turn around anytime soon. Burt said while some new homes are being built, the number of demolition permits in CBRM outweighs the number of building permits.
"We are still in a state of decline," he said.