The municipality has ordered Dalhousie University to stop demolishing a 19th century building on campus.
The university bought 1245 Edward St. last July, and wants to tear it down. As the Halifax Examiner reported in May, residents, led by neighbour Peggy Walt, rallied to call for a stop to Dal’s plans, and they gathered thousands of signatures on a petition. They also submitted a third-party heritage application for the property, but it’s up against a demolition permit application.
The Heritage Advisory Committee received the residents’ petition, with more than 5,700 signatures, at its meeting last month.
Municipal heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan told the committee the demolition permit was being processed.
“It has not yet been granted because there’s still some additional conditions that the university has to meet before that permit is issued,” he said.
Murnaghan said the municipality is processing a third-party request to add the property to the heritage registry, and it should be ready for consideration at the committee’s meeting this month, scheduled for July 27.
Committee chair Patrick Connor asked Murnaghan whether the demolition permit could be issued before the application gets to the committee.
“Now that this is in the media, there might be additional pressure on Dalhousie to rethink their plans, but as soon as they meet the conditions under the Building Code Act for the issuance of that permit, there won’t be anything we can do,” Murnaghan said. “They can act on that once it’s issued.”
If the committee scores the property over 50 points out of 100, it will be protected for 90 days pending council’s consideration.
But the university isn’t waiting for the permit.
Walt says the university has started demolishing the property without one on Friday, and the municipality has posted a violation notice.
“Demolition must not begin until an approved permit is in place,” assistant building official Daniel Campagna wrote on the notice, dated July 8.
It comes with a daily fine: $1,272.50.
In a letter to Mayor Mike Savage and Coun. Waye Mason, Walt says the demolition continued over the weekend, starting early Saturday morning. Walt has been posting photos and video of the work over the weekend on her Twitter account.
“This action was in contravention of the HRM order. The company continued its work all day. I have a video and photograph, showing the increase in wood, fixtures and other materials piled in the backyard,” Walt wrote.
Walt wants HRM to deny the demolition permit on the grounds of “workplace safety arrangements or safety of surrounding property and persons.”
“I believe contravention of both of these safety concerns were at play. Workers told us on Friday they were doing asbestos abatement, yet neighbours were not notified of this, workers were not wearing protective clothing and doors and windows were not covered with plastic sheeting. 311 said they were unable to do anything as all inspectors weren’t working on the weekend, something the demolition company was no doubt aware of,” Walt wrote.
She also wants council to expedite the heritage registration process and call an emergency meeting of the Heritage Advisory Committee.
“Staff’s report and recommendations are ready to go – let’s not delay hearing what they have to say about the importance of this building to Halifax’s history and heritage,” Walt wrote.
Dalhousie University spokesperson Janet Bryson offered the following statement on Monday afternoon via unsolicited email:
Dalhousie is currently carrying out work to prepare the site for the removal of hazardous materials. Once that preparatory work is complete, we will begin the removal of the identified hazardous materials. Dalhousie is confident this work is being completed in a way that is compliant with health and safety regulations and ensures the safety of both on-site workers and neighbours. Dalhousie does not consider this work to be demolition requiring a permit.