Demolition nears for Annapolis County cottage facing landslide risk

Municipal leaders in Annapolis County, N.S., are having a hard time finding a contractor to demolish a privately-owned summer cottage that’s teetering dangerously on a cliff over the Annapolis Basin.

After some heavy rain in June, the land in Charles Haynes backyard in Victoria Beach started to slide down the 25-metre embankment. So far, the house hasn’t moved but the backyard is gradually crumbling down the steep hill toward the properties below.

On June 27, the Municipality of the County of Annapolis gave Charles Haynes one week to demolish the property and repair the land that’s slowly sliding down, but Haynes failed to abide by the order.

His neighbours now say their summer has been ruined.

“We’re all very heartbroken,” said Amy Brown, who owns the cottage directly below the Haynes property along with her two brothers and her father, Robert Smith.

The worry is if the cottage is not demolished, it will slide down the embankments onto the house below. This photo was taken in late June 2019. (Cheryl Mason)

“We’ve lost our summer cottage. This entire summer’s been ruined because of it, because we don’t have time to go down and spend time together like we have every other summer.”

Haynes declined a request for an interview. Through his lawyer, he’s offered to sell his land to the municipality, but it has declined the offer.

After Haynes failed to remove the property on his own, the county issued a tender for the demolition work. The tender closed on July 19 and the winning bidder was selected three days later. However, before the contract was signed, that bidder had a change of heart after taking a second look at the tenuous job site.

“The next time he visited the property there had been further deterioration,” said Cheryl Mason, administrator for dangerous and unsightly premises for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis.

She said the municipality declared it an emergency on July 22, which gives the CAO the authority to skirt the tender process and hire a contractor as soon as possible. She said she’s meeting with one on Wednesday.

Power cut off to cottage below

In the meantime, Nova Scotia Power has cut off electricity to Smith and Brown’s cottage, as well as the fishing wharf on Victoria Beach.

Smith said the crumbling hill sent broken branches and entire trees onto the roof of his cottage. In spite of the municipality’s order to stay off his property, Smith said he’s been there to clear some of the fallen trees from the roof.

“As mad as I am at him [Haynes], I don’t want to see him lose his family home,” he said.

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