The City of Yellowknife and a local development company went head-to-head during a six-hour appeals hearing Monday.
The appellant, Granite Ventures, is blaming the City for ‘unreasonably’ applying a Do Not Occupy Order and Fire Watch Order at its newly-developed condo building on Franklin Avenue following a fire at a nearby building on November 7.
The Yellowknife-based builder is appealing both orders, and says it’s seeking $160,000 in damages.
Acting as a panel of judges, Mayor Mark Heyck and city councillors heard from lawyers and witnesses representing both sides Monday.
Niels Konge was the lone councillor missing. He was excused from the proceedings since he’s a director with Granite Ventures.
For much of afternoon, City Hall resembled a courtroom as lawyers for both sides cross-examined witnesses before councillors. It was the first time in four years such an appeal was heard in council chambers.
Glen Rutland, the lawyer for Granite Ventures, opened Monday’s hearing by saying the issue at hand wasn’t the City’s authority to issue orders. Instead, the developer is left wondering if they should have been issued in the first place.
The appeal centres around the actions City officials took after an abandoned building adjacent to the Granite Condos went up in flames in the early hours of November 7.
Even though the new condo building sustained no damage, residents were asked to evacuate for safety reasons, only to be told they could return home after the fire was brought under control.
The condos ‘shouldn’t have been occupied at all’
One day before the fire, on November 6, City inspectors issued conditional occupancy permits for nine of 24 units at the Granite Condos, located at 5604 Franklin Avenue.
But according to Yellowknife Fire Chief Darcy Hernblad, those permits shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.
At issue for Hernblad was the fact that the building didn’t have any siding, which he says can ‘significantly reduce the chance of a fire spreading’ if installed.
Furthermore, Hernblad and other City directors didn’t even know there were occupants in the Granite Condos until after the fire broke out. That prompted the City to issue a Do Not Occupy Order on November 10.
Within the order, Granite Ventures was told that all occupancy permits had been revoked, that no new ones would be issued and that all of the residents who had moved in would have to leave.
The order would only last two hours, according to Hernblad, but a Fire Watch Order was issued shortly after – on November 12.
Hernblad called the issuance of a Fire Watch a ‘compromise’ since he didn’t want the building to be occupied at all, but admits it would have been a hassle to move occupants out.
According to Granite Ventures, the Fire Watch Order required them to monitor the building’s interior and exterior 24 hours a day, though occupants were allowed to stay in their units.
In its appeal, the development company argued that no new information was learned between the time conditional occupancy permits were granted on November 6 and the time the Do Not Occupy Order was issued on November 10.
The appellant also accused the City of flip-flopping, asking why inspectors allowed for nine units to be occupied even though Hernblad said the building wasn’t supposed to be occupied at all.
Granite Ventures is seeking to be reimbursed $160,000 in lost rent and costs associated with maintaining the fire watch. Council will weigh in on the appeal within 45 days.