How do you save a building that's already demolished?

The City of Charlottetown is acknowledging its process for appealing demolition permits makes no sense, and needs to be reviewed.

Charlottetown tackling 'bug' in city bylaw after resident questions timing of Holland College demolition

Seven buildings owned by Holland College are in the process of being demolished, to make way for a new 80-bed residence at the corner of Grafton St. and Cumberland St. in Charlottetown. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The City of Charlottetown is acknowledging its bylaw allowing residents to appeal demolition permits makes little sense, and needs to be reviewed. 

That's after resident Peter Rukavina questioned why seven Holland College-owned buildings are already in the process of being torn down, weeks before the deadline to appeal the approved demolition has passed. 

"What if we launch an appeal and the appeal's successful? Do they build back the buildings they've destroyed?" questioned Rukavina.

"When the wrecking ball is involved, you can't take that back.… It seems sort of like a bug in the system."

Charlottetown resident Peter Rukavina says the fact a building can be demolished before the appeal deadline points to a 'bug in the system.' (Steve Bruce/CBC)

'Rukavina is right'

Under Charlottetown's Zoning and Development Bylaw, residents have 21 days after a building or demolition permit has been issued to formally appeal the granting of that permit with the city. 

But the chair of the city's planning committee, Greg Rivard, said building owners are free to start the demolition as soon as the permit's been granted. 

"I'm guessing within 21 days, these buildings behind us will be down," Rivard said from the site of the Holland College demolition. The demolition began last week — three days after the permit was granted.

When the wrecking ball is involved, you can't take that back- Peter Rukavina, Charlottetown resident 

"Rukavina is right — if the buildings are all down, there's really no recourse at that point."

In the case of Holland College's building demolition — which is taking place to make way for the construction of a new 80-bed residence — Rivard said there were other opportunities for residents to appeal the project before city council approved it, but no appeals came forward. 

He also pointed out that to the best of his knowledge, no one has ever appealed a demolition permit with the city, and that it would likely take a "very compelling case" from a resident before the city would revoke a permit. 

College not concerned about appeal

Holland College's director of facilities management Justin Dunn said with all that in mind, the college has no concerns about losing its demolition permit. 

"We do take comfort in that we haven't changed anything associated with the project, through neighbourhood meetings, through what was approved, and through to today.  Everything we've prescribed to do, we've carried out," said Dunn. 

Rukavina said he has no particular concerns with Holland College's demolition, but he said if there is going to be appeal process available to residents, it needs to be effective. 

Councillor Greg Rivard, who chairs the city's planning committee, says 'there's definitely work to be done' on the appeal process. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"We should either enforce a rule where developers have to wait until the appeal process is over, or not have an appeal process at all," said Rukavina.

"But trying to maintain the facade of having an appeal process once the wrecking ball has started seems a little absurd."

The bylaw needs to be reviewed for more clarity.- Greg Rivard, chair, Charlottetown Heritage and Planning Committee

Rivard said he's spoken with city officials about the issue, and that they agree the appeal process needs to be reviewed and potentially amended.  

"I'm looking into that as we speak," he said.

"The bylaw needs to be reviewed for more clarity."

Any changes to the process will require the approval of city council, as well as an amendment to the provincial planning act.