A court order is forcing the closure of apartments in downtown Kenora. Tenants in Lila's Block, formerly known as the Dalmore Hotel, were served with notice last week, and they'll have to find a new place to live by April 1.
In the decision issued by Justice D.C. Shaw at the end of December said the second and third floors of the building at 117 Main Street was "being used as a boarding house and a drug house," in contravention of current zoning.
A letter advising the tenants of the court proceedings was drafted last May. Arguments were heard by the court at the end of November.
The court asked for a list of names of the all the tenants in the building, but didn't say how many there were. The Northwest Legal Clinic was granted intervenor status in the case, given their expertise in landlord and tenant issues.
"The public nuisance has a detrimental impact on the use and enjoyment of property in the vicinity of the Lila's Block Property," the judge continued in the ruling.
"The respondents and the residential occupants of the Lila's Block Property knew or ought to have known that the activities or circumstances constituting the public nuisance were taking place or existed and did not take adequate steps to eliminate the public nuisance," Shaw added.
Acting mayor Mort Goss reserved comment on the decision yesterday. Police and firefighters -- who have often been called to the building -- also chose not to comment.
The order was issued against Eikre Holdings, Darryl and Phyllis Eikre. Darryl Eikre reserved comment on the issue yesterday, as well as any next steps for the property.
In an affidavit he gave last September, Eikre said he didn't oppose the closure of the second and third floors of the building for a period of time.
According to the court order, the second and third floors of the building must remain vacant for a year, unless there are repairs, renovations or demolition being done. The court order is allowed under section 447.1 of the Municipal Act, which deals with the closure of premises deemed a public nuisance.
Last May, the city filed documents arguing their case before the court in Kenora. With regard to the public nuisance, they said activities on the property constituted a public nuisance to neighbouring streets, lanes, sidewalks and businesses.
- trespass to property
- interference with highways and public places
- increased garbage, noise, traffic or unusual traffic patterns
- activities that had a significant impact on property values
- an increase in harassment or intimidation
- as well as the presence of graffiti
Within the last five years, the city noted there have been two fires at the property, along with multiple and recurring fire code violations, "thereby putting the residents and occupants of the property as well as those that work in and frequent the neighbouring properties at extreme risk, should a fire occur."
In addition, the city argued, "repeatedly people have been assaulted and threatened in and about Lila's Block, with some of these assaults being so severe that, though fortunate to survive, the lives of the persons assaulted have been altered forever."
Drug use, dealing and alcohol abuse at and about Lila's Block was described as "rampant."
In the defence filed in September, Darryl Eikre said they purchased the building in 2005 from former mayor Kelvin Winkler and his wife, Lila. Eikre noted the tenants primarily are people with modest resources, often with mental or addiction problem or both.
In his sworn affidavit, Eikre said he tried to have a tenant control access to the building and activities that took place inside. However, he emphasized tenants have a legal right to allow visitors, and "it is virtually impossible to control who gets into the building, even with all outside doors locked at all times."
The owner added he had issued more than 200 no trespassing orders authorizing officers to remove unwanted persons and he had even been assaulted himself, but police have "rarely laid charges," the owner said. Eikre noted he had issued 40 keys to police for the outside doors, so they would have one for each patrol car.
"There is undoubtedly drug use in the building. I am not aware of anyone selling drugs; if I did I would have reported it to the police," he continued.
The issue of used needles in the building, in his view, was related to the needle exchange program in the community.
He said the building passed a health unit inspection last June, and copies of the inspections were included in court filings.
Eikre further said compliance orders issued by the fire department and the city were made in late 2014 and early 2015, and they were corrected "without delay."
According to Jim Retson's web site Kenora Buildings, the Sauerbrie House was built in 1891 by George Drewery.
"This hotel was the first in town to have indoor plumbing with the pipe running across Main Street, down the alley besides Johnson's Pharmacy and into the Lake of the woods. An amusement hall was located on the upper storey," says Retson.
John Sauerbrei was born in Barvaria Germany according to the 1901 England Census. He started his career in Belgium at an early age and was involved in Hotel Management in Holland, France, Canary Island , England , Quebec and Toronto before moving to Kenora. He purchased the hotel around 1914.
"Some older residents of Kenora speak of having their first drink in the Hotel bar and the reputation of lack enforcement of age requirements," Retson noted.
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