Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fish and chips, to go?

The Daily News caught up to the news cycle with their coverage of the fate of the Green Apple restaurant, a long time fixture in the city which is under the threat of closure due to structural and safety concerns about it’s McBride Street location.

As we discovered in our post earlier, Gordon Lam was granted an extra fifteen days, giving him a 45 day period to get his own assessment of his property, including a suggestion from his side of the argument that a city retaining wall may be causing his business some of its current problems, a wall that he claims to have been trying to get the city to look into for a number of years.

The situation for now for Lam is that he cannot open his restaurant for business until the issue is resolved, a conclusion which may in the end see the demolition of his 26 year old business.

Friday’s Daily featured a front page story on the issue, detailing the events of the special session of city council called last Wednesday to discuss the issue.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, January 25, 2008
Pages one and three

A "heritage business" in Prince Rupert will not be re-opening any time soon, after city council determined this week that the structure was a danger to public safety.

But more than 20 members of the public attended a special meeting of council held on Wednesday night in support of Green Apple restaurant owner Gordon Lam, who has been given 30 days to demolish his building.

The issue between Lam and the city is one that stems back nearly 20 years, but which came to a head when Lam was given a letter condemning the building following a structural engineer's site survey on Jan. 18.

The public meeting began at 6 p.m. following a closed-door council meeting on the issue, and it was immediately clear that council found itself in a difficult spot.

"There's no getting away from the fact that something needs to be done, particularly given that we have a structural engineers report in front of us that declares the building to be unsafe," said Councilor Tony Briglio.

"I could appreciate and even understand the urgency of the matter with respect to not allowing anyone into the building, but in terms of our wording I think that 'removal or demolition' without giving the option of rectifying the structure is a little bit harsh."

That sentiment was shared by other councillors, but before making any amendments to their recommendation Mr. Lam was given time to make a presentation along with supporter Jan Jesser, who helped him detail his position. Lam began by stating that he has run the Green Apple for the past 26 years and always enjoyed working in the community and that it has become the only source of income for his family.

"I've built the Green Apple reputation up all over the world since I started working here," said Lam. "The city supports the local people, and if anything goes wrong, they should give people a chance, not step on people and push them out. When a business is gone, it's gone forever."

Lam also presented council with documents showing his communication with the City of Prince Rupert throughout the last 20 years on the subject.

Lam said he has continually attempted to have the retaining wall to the side of his building repaired due to his concern that it was damaging the support structure of his building.

He also presented council with a series of pictures taken since 1988 that he claims detail the continual shifting of the retaining wall, which is not on his property.

On behalf of Lam, Jesser then outlined the business owner's long history of communication with the city, and presented council with documentation to support his account. According to correspondence between Lam and city officials, since 1988 Lam requested that the city make repairs to the retaining wall and sidewalk on Third Avenue several times, but no agreed course of action in rectifying the perceived problem was ever reached. In 2003, the city even tried to purchase the land from Lam through a real-estate agent, but they could not reach mutually acceptable price.

Jesser continued to say that Lam contacted Rupert Wood and Steel this month to formally begin a process to fix his building, and approached the city about a possible permit and about them fixing the allegedly degrading wall. A building inspector informed Lam that he could not open his restaurant until a structural engineer from Vancouver determined the structural integrity of the building. After the engineer conducted a two-hour site survey on Jan. 17, Lam was told his building had serious safety issues and was condemned, said Jesser.

"Mr. Lam takes this matter very seriously, and this is evidenced by his continually seeking the guidance and cooperative help from the city building department over the last 19 years," said Jesser. "He realizes there is a shared responsibility in making and keeping his establishment safe to the public, but he disagrees that his building is eminently dangerous. He would have initiated this process sooner if he had felt that any work done on his property would not have been negated by the fact that the city could not afford to remedy their responsibility to the retaining wall and slope which is encroaching on his structure."

After more questions were asked of Lam and Jesser by council, it was ultimately decided to amend the city's recommendations pertaining to the Green Apple, giving Lam an opportunity to have his own structural engineer inspect the building and give Lam an idea of his options and costs for repairing the structure. Lam plans to have the engineer determine what stress the Third Avenue retaining wall may be putting on his building, and hopes to come to a mutual plan of action with the city.

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