In an effort to quash “nuisance” activity at the site of South Surrey’s Old Curio Shop, the City of Surrey has been working this week to clear the site.
Since the shop – which had long been the subject of complaints from nearby residents for its unsightly, cluttered appearance – was boarded up and closed in May following the death of owner Barrie Cohen, the building has been broken into numerous times and has been a preferred locale for squatters, said Jas Rehal, Surrey’s manager of bylaw and licensing.
Attempts to have the property owners – Cohen’s family members – clean up the site on their own have failed, Rehal said.
“There has been some nuisance activity, and it has increased so much in the last little while that we can’t wait for the property owners to take action, so we have moved in to secure the site,” he said.
“There has been a significant demand on RCMP resources, and our bylaw officers and fire (crews), as well.”
This week, Surrey bylaw officers and a team of contractors have worked to clear the site of debris, including removal of bushes and shrubs that cover much of the property, which also includes a residence adjacent to the Curio Shop.
A temporary fence has also been erected, and Rehal said they are working with the owners to determine if a more permanent solution will be put in place.
He noted cleanup crews will not be clearing out the contents of the Curio Shop – which, for years, has been stacked nearly to the roof with knick-knacks, antiques and other secondhand items – nor will the building be razed, as has been the rumour circulating among some nearby residents and business owners.
“There’s no plans to do that, no. Our plan is to clean up the site and secure the building,” Rehal said. “And the (owners) are responsible for the contents (of the building).”
The property owners are also responsible for the clean-up costs, and will be billed for it, he added.
Rehal said while there is no official timeline to complete the cleanup project, he was hopeful it would be done by the end of the week.
“It’s a big job – bigger than we anticipated,” he said. “The crews have been there all week and they’ll be there until it’s done.”
Cohen’s sister, Rachel, declined to respond to Peace Arch News’ recent requests for comment, but in an email Monday, accused the City of Surrey of entering the property “without due process.” In the same email, she said the cost to her family has reached as high as $96,000.
In a June email, the New York resident told PAN that the property has been looted “practically on a daily basis” and that the family had followed every directive from the city.
“We’re so disturbed by everything that happened,” Cohen said. “We did exactly what we were told to do.”