Meath park church demolition: bylaw officer responds

An excavator handles a piece of the old Meath Park Ukrainian Catholic Church on March 20, 2018. The church was demolished after the village made multiple attempts to remedy the situation with the landowner. The landowner said he didn't receive any communication with the village. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A day after a historic church was demolished in the Village of Meath Park, the village’s bylaw officer has responded to concerns about how the process was handled.

Chris Letendre of B&B Enforcement Service is the appointed bylaw officer and building official for the village.

In a written statement, Letendre said the demolition began March 20 under section 366 of the Municipalities Act Chapter M-36 “due to significant structural failure of the building’s foundation, leading to a compromised floor structure, the south facing load bearing wall and roof assembly.”

According to the statement, the village had been attempting to negotiate the repair or removal of the church as far back as 2013 under the authority of the village’s nuisance abatement bylaw. Letendre alleges several deadlines had come and gone with promises not met by the property owner to repair the church and secure the property until repairs could be made.

Letendre found, in early 2017, the basement was open to the outside through the south side of the building where the foundation had collapsed, all the exterior doors were left open and there were few windows left due to trespassing on the property.

Letendre said the building structure “was slumped down over the failed foundation.” He wrote a letter to the property owner introducing himself and requesting the building be secured and an engineered repair plan with timeline was provided.

There was no response. Letendre said he then sent an Order to Remedy on May 29, 2017 by registered mail. Again, he said, there was no response and no appeal filed.

Council then requested a step-by-step breakdown of the process. After receiving a report, a final meeting was held discussing safety concerns and liability risks the building exposed the village to.

“It was a decision that nobody wanted to have to make, but after deliberation and a lack of effort to secure the (building) to prevent people from entering, it was determined that the building was beyond the owners’ means of care or repair,” Letendre wrote. “And, that the village must follow through with the order to remedy the church to prevent rodent infestation, trespassing, fire hazards or the possibility of injury or worse yet, the loss of life in the building by means of demolition.”

Related: Historic Meath Park church demolished

For his part, Abrom Friesen, who holds title of the land in lieu of the Country Gospel Fellowship, said he never received any of the notices sent out by the village.

He alleged poor communication. Friesen, along with Pauline Bear, said they found out about the impending demolition while at a hair appointment. They arrived on site Tuesday to try to halt the demolition, eventually negotiating to salvage some objects from the old church.

Friesen said they had planned to renovate the building and open it back up as a place of worship. He said they had been in touch with a contractor and had established plans to lift up the building and rebuild its foundation.

Bear said they put up an eight-foot fence to keep people out, but it wasn’t enough. She said they were told a 12-foot fence was necessary. She disagreed.

“We’re in Canada and we have to put up 12-foot fencing to keep people out of your property? It’s not right,” she said.

“The first few years we had it boarded up. It didn’t matter what means we had to keep people out of there. They told us to put up a 12-foot fence. I disagree with that. We went only with the eight-foot. I feel it’s not right in Canada that we have to go through that means to protect our property.”

**Ed. Note: The original version of the first story identified the building as an Orthodox church. The Herald was informed it was a former Orthodox church, but has since learned that is not the case. It is in fact a former Ukrainian Catholic church. We regret the error. The original story has been updated.