'It makes no sense': Regina councillor puzzled by Brandt's unauthorized CNIB demolition

Regina city councillor Bob Hawkins says he can't understand how a large corporation like Brandt wouldn't know a permit is required before a building can be demolished.

Demolition permit for CNIB building could take 10 days

A track-hoe was busy demolishing the old CNIB building on Monday, but work came to halt because it turned out there was no demolition permit. (CBC)

Regina city councillor Bob Hawkins says he can't understand how a large corporation like Brandt, with a VP who used to be second in command at city hall, wouldn't know a permit is required from the city before a building can be demolished.

"It makes no sense to me that given the nature of the project, given the people involved, the demolition permit would not have been sought beforehand," said councillor Bob Hawkins. "It makes no sense at all to me." 

On Monday morning, Brandt began tearing down the former CNIB building to make way for its controversial four-storey commercial office tower.

The city says it became aware of the demolition Monday afternoon and issued a stop work order because the company had failed to apply for a demolition permit. 

When asked, Brandt explained that it didn't realize it needed to get a permit from the city because it figured it had approval from the provincial government. 

Brandt's vice-president of development Brent Sjoberg was Regina's deputy city manager until early 2016.

He said "our understanding was that the [Provincial Capital Commission] was solely responsible to approve the demolition. It was a misunderstanding on process."

However, a government official told CBC that in early January it sent an email to Sjoberg indicating "that Brandt would need to ensure they had all the appropriate permits for the project." 

I think most homeowners in the city know if they start demolishing buildings you have to check with City Hall about what the appropriate regulations are.- Bob Hawkins - Regina City Councillor

It all leaves Hawkins shaking his head in disbelief.

He said Brandt is a large and sophisticated company and "I'm surprised they don't know the regulations around demolition permits." 

Coun. Bob Hawkins says he can't understand how a big, sophisticated company like Brandt Developments could overlook getting a demolition permit. (CBC News)

He said it's even worse given Sjoberg's previous prominent role with the city. "So I find it surprising that Brandt wouldn't at least think to ask about a demolition permit before demolishing a building," Hawkins said.

"I think most homeowners in the city know if they start demolishing buildings you have to check with city hall about what the appropriate regulations are." 

He said he hopes Brandt wasn't attempting to skirt the rules.

"It's like when you were a child — your mother says 'don't take a cookie out of the cookie jar.' You take the cookie out of the cookie jar and you say 'I'll deal with the consequences later because I've already eaten the cookie — at least I've got the cookie,'" said Hawkins.

"I don't know if that's the kind of thing that was going on but if it was I'd be concerned."

However, Brandt insists this was a misunderstanding and it's working at resolving it.

Brent Sjoberg is Brandt's vice-president of development. Earlier in the decade, he was the deputy city manager at Regina City Hall. (CBC News)

Permit could take 10 days

In an email, the city confirmed it has received a demolition permit application today "and it is in the regular process of review and circulation by the City. A commercial demolition permit is typically approved within 10 days." 

According to the city's rules, when a commercial or institutional building is being demolished "a Hazardous Materials Survey must be completed by an independent qualified engineer or consultant prior to any demolition activities." The city says it has received this document from Brandt.

This is an artist's conception of what the Brandt building at 2550 Broad St. will look like when it opens in 2020. (Colliers International)

In a Monday news release, Brandt said "the derelict building is being demolished and the site purged of toxic materials such as asbestos to allow for the construction of a new CNIB home." 

According to the city, if the building to be destroyed contains asbestos the company will have to "agree to comply with all Occupational Health and Safety Regulations for removal of asbestos, transport the same in accordance with the Transportation and Dangerous Goods Act and also contact the City of Regina... to obtain the required permit for disposal of the asbestos to the City of Regina landfill."

Brandt says it will follow all the rules.

For a number of months, some Regina residents have been critical of the Brandt project because it's being built on the edge of Wascana Park, one of the largest city parks in North America. It's sometimes called the "jewel" of Regina. 

About the Author

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.