According to Grewal, the Gills still think these houses may be sound. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

VIDEO: Owner says derelict duplexes on Neva Road may be salvageable, property to be developed

Sitting between the top of Macdonald and Neva Roads, these buildings are a long-time eyesore

When the so-called “Gill duplexes” on the S-bend of Neva Road in Lake Cowichan will be demolished has been a topic of conversation in town for a long time.

From what emerged at the town council meeting Tuesday, June 25, it could be a while longer before there’s any action in that area, and it’s still a moot point whether or not the buildings will be torn down.

Satdev Gill and Paul Grewal came to the meeting to present their case to council. Grewal did all the talking.

The family is asking for an extension to the Town of Lake Cowichan’s order to pull down the derelict buildings.

“The property has been in the family for three generations,” Grewal said. “But when the grandfather passed away, it was in a family trust so with the family trust what happened was that a CPL was put on the property. [A CPL or certificate of pending litigation is a document that is typically registered against the title of a specific and identified interest in real property warning all interested parties of a legal claim involving that real property and the potential jeopardy or change to the actual ownership on title.]

“So it was in limbo land for seven years. That CPL just got removed May 28, 2019. I have evidence to show from court documents and also an email if you’d like to see it,” he said.

Now some of the land has been sold, and the rest has been allowed to go to tax sale.

“One of the problems that Joe [Town CAO Joe Fernandez] mentioned in his letter is that the property needed to be demo’d but what we’ve done is hire a structural engineer…The structures are not an immediate safety risk. They’re not going to fall down. The stucco has peeled away a little bit but underneath where he went into the crawl space, there is rot on one or two, but it’s not going to fall down. I got an email from him, which I can forward to you.

“The reason [for asking for] an extension is we thought you might like to see a formal report…and that’s going to take a little bit of time. We needed another week or so. We will have a formal report that we can share with you. Meantime we have a verbal and an email from him that no immediate action needs be taken.”

The other reason the family is asking for an extension on the demolition order is that the properties are in probate.

“I think we’re about three weeks away from getting the final probate done…We are right at the fringe of getting all this done. The properties have been sold with a completion date of Aug. 7. This contract was, I believe sent to council and Joseph so you have written proof of it. The person that has purchased them has every intent of developing the properties in our understanding. And even in the contract we have indicated to them that, look, the Town would like them cleaned and maybe even demo’d.

“We’re hoping you’ll give us the time so that the new owner, who’s going to develop it, who will have the machinery, and who has every intention of doing something to the property can do what he needs to do.”

Grewal then addressed the question no one had asked yet.

“The reason the property has been neglected for so long is, first of all, the generations of the family have moved to the mainland and now the new generation that were going to take control of the properties, there was a CPL put on it, and there wasn’t the funds to clean up the property. That’s why it was a tax sale. But we are there now, it’s all going to be solved and the properties will get cleaned up.”

Coun. Vomacka asked if the new owner was buying all four properties and Grewal replied that he was.

She also asked if he planned on developing them all.

Grewal said, “he knows the Town would like them demo-ed” but he did not know the other plans.

“I know he’ll have to abide by cleaning them,” he said.

Coun. Carolyne Austin thanked the two men for coming forward with some detail about two properties that have been discussed for years, and that local firefighters do not want to enter because of the possible danger.

No decisions are made at council meetings directly after any delegation so this subject will go forward to another meeting for further discussion.

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