City, owners stepping up demolition of derelict buildings

The muffled creaking of twisting metal filled the air. A loud rumble followed as a backhoe scooped up a clawful of cement, wood shards and dirt. Nearby, a man stood with his hands in his pockets, taking in the sight.

The demolition last Sunday, Sept. 11 of Main Street’s Modern Beauty and Barber Shop marked the latest in a series of teardowns to rid Flin Flon of abandoned, unsightly and potentially dangerous buildings that had outlived their usefulness.

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Between private owners, as with Modern Beauty, and the City of Flin Flon, 18 structural demolition permits have been issued so far in 2016. Two of the permits allowed reconstruction of some sort, while the remaining 16 have or will leave flat lots where buildings once stood.

“We’d like to see the worst [buildings] dealt with first,” says Ted Elliott, municipal bylaw enforcement officer, who oversees the city’s demolition program.

Elliott says abandoned buildings are problematic in that they are typically left unprotected to deteriorate. Sometimes they are targetted by vandals or become makeshift shelters for the homeless.

As of Monday, the city had demolished nine buildings this year, each of which became municipal property when the former owners stopped paying taxes. A 10th building, the former Vic’s Decorating Supplies building on Third Avenue, was to be demolished in the near future.

Earlier this year, the city tore down another former business, the old Doe Doe’s Pizza building on Green Street, along with eight houses: two each on Tweedsmuir Drive and Emery Drive, and one each on First Avenue, Callinan Street, Burke Avenue and South Main Street.

The city assumes ownership of buildings only if the property goes unsold at a public auction. Buildings that reach this stage typically have no value to the city, so they are torn down with the worst structures demolished first.

Mayor Cal Huntley has tied the demolition of buildings to city council’s Clean and Green community beautification strategy. He said teardowns can also reduce crime.

“If the community looks good, if you’re knocking down derelict buildings, you’re going to see a decrease in crime as well,” he told The Reminder in August. “So … Clean and Green impacts more than just visual, it actually impacts the social nature of the community as well. So I think we’re travelling down the right road and we’ll see some results from that.”

Once the former Vic’s Decorating Supplies building is flattened, Elliott said, the city will have removed all of the tax-sale properties it owns.

What will next year hold? That won’t become clear until after the city’s next property auction, slated for late 2016.

The 18 demolition permits issued in 2016 is two more than the 16 permits in 2015, and more than double the eight permits handed out in 2014. Of the 24 permits issued between 2014 and 2015, six made way for new construction.

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