The devastating fire rocked Queen Street West. A string of heritage buildings went up in smoke just east of Bathurst on February 20.
Though the damage was great, everyone survived. But the businesses may never recover. The cost of the repair is huge – too high for one owner.
Gary Duke of Duke’s Cycle watched his family’s 90-year-old store burned to the ground. Now, he’s on the hook for $64,000 – and he has 21 days to pay it.
That’s the total cost of two bills he received from the city, one for demolition and one for clean-up. He was surprised, to say the least.
“Disbelief,” Duke says. “I’m in shock with the fire and everything that is going on and trying to run a business.”
The Mayor sympathizes with the problem, but maintains that the financial costs are Duke’s responsibility.
“This is a great tragedy,” David Miller acknowledged. “But,” he added, “there are appropriate public policy reasons when somebody owns private property that they’re responsible for their property.”
Duke’s parents received the first bill for $48,000. In shock, they phoned their son. He received the next bill, for $16,000, about ten days later.
” There’s something wrong here,” asserts Duke. “My insurance company might or might not be able to cover it.”
According to one city councillor, that’s just bad manners.
“The city’s bedside manner in this case leaves a lot to be desired,” argued Adam Vaughan.
But like Miller, he said that property owners should be responsible for the costs.
” The city is not in the business of providing free demolition service,” Vaughan stated.
“If there isn’t a charge back to the property owner,” he pointed out, “owners across the city, who know they’re going to go through a redevelopment exercise, would do their demolition with matches.”
He said that private insurance should cover most of it, but it’s up to the city to hold insurances companies accountable, and mitigate some of the costs.
The total cost is just around $80,000. Vaughan claimed that the costs given to Duke’s Cycle were disproportionately high, compared to other sites.
“The insurance industry and the adjustors in particular on this building site have got to start being a bit more ethical, a bit more efficient in the way they are processing these claims,” Vaughan argued.
He also said that the costs should be shared among all buildings. Owners will be meeting to discuss it.
In the meantime, Duke has set up shop in Richmond. Heplans to move back to Queen Street as soon as he can afford it.