By James Matthews (Local Journalism Initiative reporter)
Municipality of Dysart et al taxpayers may end up footing some of the cost to tear down the dilapidated Wigamog Inn.
The Aurora Group, owners of the Kashaganigamog Lake inn, were given until July 29 to board all windows and entrances as a measure to prevent trespassers and vandals. Multiple complaints have been forwarded to town hall since 2019 regarding safety concerns about the property.
Indeed, it’s lured a number of videographers who explore abandoned properties throughout North America. One such video from 2018 can be found on YouTube on the Freaktography channel.
The resort’s owners previously indicated their intentions to demolish the property instead of merely boarding windows. But such work has yet to begin.
Karl Korpela, Dysart’s chief building official, told town council at its regular council meeting Oct. 11 that an excessive number of building permits were issued in September.
He said the main reason for the high permit tally is in part because of 37 demolition permits issued for the Wigamog Inn property.
But those demolition permits haven’t been paid for, he said, and it looks as if the municipality will have to foot the bill and begin the process to demolish structures on the site.
He said costs incurred by the town will be added to Wigamog Inn property taxes.
“This could be very costly for the municipality, but it does go on the tax roll,” said Mayor Andrea Roberts.
Dysart’s Signs and Property Standards Committee met Oct. 3. One of its items of business was discussion of the Wigamog Inn property. The committee learned that no response was received from the Aurora Group to a reminder email sent to the owners a week prior to its meeting.
The committee previously gave a 60-day extension to the Aurora Group to meet the Property Standards Order that was issued from the bylaw department.
Staff had been in contact with a construction manager who asked about burn permits. According to a report to the committee, he was instructed to speak with Dysart’s interim fire chief, but no burn permits had been requested.
According to the Signs and Property Standards Committee: “The Property Standards Order is now confirmed and the Bylaw Department will proceed with bringing the property into compliance. Staff confirmed that no further relief can be requested for this order.”
Ward 4 Councillor John Smith said council should get assurances that the expenditures to deal with the Wigamog Inn buildings will not cost the municipality more than what could be recovered in a possible future tax sale.
Korpela said the municipality would issue a request for proposals to get an idea about the companies available to handle such work.
“We’re not going to look at, well what’s the property worth overall and are we going to exceed that?” said Korpela. “This has to be done.”
Smith asked what avenues are available to the town to recoup costs should the municipality spend $1-million to demolish the Wigamog Inn structures, but get only half that amount in a property tax sale.
“That’s not fair to our property tax payers across the community,” Smith said. “I want to make sure there’s a process in place before any additional staff time and expenditures are engaged in.
“That we understand the whole picture here and protect the taxpayers from one negligent property owner.”
Barbara Swannell, the treasurer, said staff from many departments would be consulted to ensure the project is viable.
Given the inn is on about 43 acres of prime lakefront property, Ward 2 Councillor Larry Clarke suggested the real estate is likely worth as much as $5-million.
Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy said he has no concerns about the property’s value.
“After it’s rehabilitated, it’s going to be worth substantially more than our investment is going to be,” Kennedy said.
The deputy mayor asked if it was set in stone that the work would go ahead and what would happen should the property owners go to court to appeal council’s decision?
“At this point, it’s basically a done deal,” said Korpela. “To get it demolished.”
Roberts suggested the owners could also pay for the demolition permits and follow through with the work themselves.
Even if they were to pay for the permits, they haven’t submitted to the town and demolition plan.
“The key message to the public is … we are moving forward as best we can,” Roberts said. “Unfortunately, these things don’t happen overnight. To imply that we are doing nothing is incorrect.”