Norfolk puts contaminated house on the block

Norfolk County has put the former Delhi Solac industrial property on Waverly Street in Delhi up for sale for back taxes. Bidding for the 3.7-acre property – which has an assessed value of $1.27 million – starts at $418,527. Bidding closes at 3 p.m. April 24. MONTE SONNENBERG / DELHI NEWS-RECORD

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One of the most troubled properties in Norfolk County is on sale for back taxes.

Potential buyers will want to take a close look at 28 Queen Street in Langton, one of nine properties advertised last week.

It can be yours for taxes, interest, penalties and administrative charges in the amount of $6,780.

But don’t be fooled by the bargain-basement price: There’s a world of contamination going on in this part of the hamlet dating back more than 30 years.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit flagged the property in 2009. A fuel spill at a former service station across the road has fouled the soil from front to back. The Ministry of the Environment has documented high levels of air-borne contaminants, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes.

“A total of six residences along Albert and Queen streets – including 28 Queen Street – are impacted with petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants,” MOE spokesperson Gary Wheeler said last week in an email.

“In 2003, the ministry and Shell Canada reached a remediation settlement. The company agreed – through the previous gas station owner – to fund 25 percent of the costs associated with remediating the site.”

When the health unit posted the house in 2009, the Dewaeles were both 87 and had relocated to Cedarwood Village in Simcoe. Their children wanted the MOE to take responsibility for the situation and buy the home at fair market value.

Before the contamination was confirmed, the house had an assessed value of $154,000. That was reduced to $75,000 and more recently lowered to its current market value of $10,000.

As they expected, the Dewaeles got nowhere with the MOE. The house has sat vacant since. Arthur Dewaele died in 2012. His will transferred title to wife Angel.

When she died in 2015, Angel Dewaele bequeathed her home to her children. On the advice of a lawyer, they refused to accept it. The home sits forlornly today where it has always stood, unoccupied, deteriorating inside and out, and still posted with the health notices Dr. Malcolm Lock, a past Medical Officer of Health in Norfolk and Haldimand, authorized in 2009.

“We wanted away from this home,” son Albert Dewaele said. “The MOE said there’s basically no way to clean it up. There’s nothing we can do. We’re out of the picture. It’s a shame.”

Norfolk has listed the property in the latest tax sale at Tri-Target.com . Under the heading “Additional information” the county says “Contaminant issues. For information contact H-N Health Unit.”

There is also a disclaimer regarding “environmental matters” in county advertising.

Norfolk tax collector Sue Boughner says treasury staff covered the bases with the packaging of this property. Boughner adds that Dr. Lock’s warning regarding the property is posted on site at two locations.

“The municipality makes no representation regarding environmental or any other matters relating to the land to be sold,” she said in an email.

“Responsibility for ascertaining these matters rests with the potential purchasers.”

This isn’t the first time buyers have had to watch their step with a tax sale in the local area.

Several years ago, Haldimand County offered a vacant parcel of land west of Hagersville for back taxes. No where did the county mention that this land was adjacent to the site of the Hagersville Tire Fire of 1990.

Haldimand treasury staff said at the time that it is up to potential buyers to do their research and know what they are bidding on prior to making an offer. The millions of tires that burned in that disaster left a legacy of widespread environmental degradation.

The deadline for bidding for the nine properties in Norfolk is 3 p.m. April 24. Other noteworthy parcels include:

  • The former Delhi Solac industrial property on Waverly Street in Delhi. Bidding for the 3.7-acre property – which has an assessed value of $1.27 million – starts at $418,527.
  • A vacant storefront at 44 Robinson St. in downtown Simcoe. Bidding starts at $50,351. The assessed value of the two-storey building is $189,250.
  • A one-acre industrial property at 380 Second Ave. W. in Simcoe. The minimum bid on this property – which has an assessed value of $159,000 – is $40,980.

Five other parcels consist of vacant land in Port Dover, Delhi, Bill’s Corners west of Simcoe, the former Houghton Township and the former Windham Township.

 

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