No matter how much is invested in a city’s infrastructure, its buildings, its green space, a few derelict buildings can spoil the overall impression.
This is the dilemma facing Summerside City Council. Two properties in particular are bringing them down. Both are located in the north section of the city that has seen tremendous growth in the past decade and is bustling with activity.
The two properties were discussed at Tuesday’s Committee of Council meeting, where frustrations were manifested.
The former Summerset Manor building just off Granville Street North, was closed in 2012, when the new manor was built, and is still owned by the provincial government.
The former Holland College building, a short distance away on Ryan Street, was bought by P.E.I. developer, the APM Group in March 2008. Although described as “a prime piece of Summerside real estate,” it was already turning into an eyesore then, having sat vacant for about four years.
APM president Tim Banks promised the entire 7.3-hectare plot of land and the former college building would eventually be developed for commercial and residential use.
Three years ago APM did develop part of the property, erecting a 10,000-square-foot building facing North Granville St., to house three retail and food operations.
The old manor is starting to show the telltale signs of being vacant for five years. The old Holland College’s 13 years of decay is more obvious.
APM has owned the building for nine years. That’s more than enough time to wait.
Summerside council has asked their staff to examine the option of imposing a higher tax rate on these vacant buildings. The hope is to motivate the owners into taking action by either renovating, selling or demolishing them.
If renovations are too expensive and selling is unsuccessful, unfortunately levelling the buildings may be the only viable option. But demolitions cost money as well, so property owners would be reluctant to take that step.
Perhaps the owners of those two properties need a push.
If a tax hike is what it takes to prompt action, any action, on the properties, then hike it.
The heavier tax need not remain, if the building is demolished or repaired enough so it is no longer an eyesore. There are a number of vacant buildings in the city that are not dilapidated.
There has to be some time allowed for owners to sell or develop the property, perhaps five years. And the higher taxes should only be imposed on those properties that are noticeably rundown, not ones that are maintained – at least on the exterior.
The tax raise would also send the message that the city of Summerside is not a place for ruin and deterioration, but a city of cleanliness, progress and pride.