Coquitlam council and staff were in damage control mode Monday over the lasting effects of a fire that wiped out an Austin Avenue business more than a year ago. A seven-person contingent representing the Mary Ann Meegan Insurance Agency Ltd. lambasted council and staff for what they described as a nightmarish, year-long process to get their business re-built.
"Since the devastating fire that destroyed our building over a year ago, my family and I have been seriously miscommunicated with, costing us huge in time, money and stress," said Meegan family spokesperson Linda Pashka.
A fire ripped through the insurance business at 1060 Austin Ave. on Sept. 6, 2012, wiping out the entire premises, including an adjacent real estate office.
Owned by Mary Ann Meegan, the insurance business first opened in 1972. Virtually everything was lost in the fire, and fire officials pegged the damage to be more than $500,000 at the time of the blaze.
What's happened since then, however, has affected the family in a multitude of ways.
Pashka accused city staff of constantly changing design guidelines, adding months of delays to the rebuilding process. Each month that passed cost the family $6,000.
She added that the city continued to charge her - to the tune of more than $3,000 - for utilities six months after those services were disconnected.
Mary Ann's son, Peter, said the city even billed the family $3,500 for costs related to
closing the block down on the night of the fire.
"I haven't asked for any help throughout the whole year, and believe me, I've been through hell and back 10 times over," he said.
Meegan also said staff placed a number of stipulations in his rezoning application he felt were unnecessary: bike racks, a park bench, shrubbery and specific rules around how the exterior of the business can look.
The family appeared before council Monday in an attempt to rezone the property and build a new, threestorey premises comprised of six different tenant spaces.
Second and third readings of the rezoning were unanimously passed, with several
council members openly apologizing to family members during the meeting. According to Mayor Richard Stewart, the Meegan family was subjected to standards applied to developers and new builders, instead of the types of stipulations applied to those simply wanting to rebuild.
"Please accept our apologies for what you went through and our commitment that it's going to go better," Stewart said. "We're going to have you cutting a ribbon pretty soon."
Fourth and final reading of the rezoning, will be up for debate later this month.
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