Visible relief washed over Carolyn Clancy on Wednesday after hearing the old Saint John's orphanage would finally be demolished.
"I don't believe it," she told The Post.
"It's not safe and is an eyesore...I'm relieved but I think the decision could have come a lot earlier."
She has lived just metres away from the 1912 structure for 11 years and watched successive fires and vandals destroy what she described as a once beautiful building.
Ms Clancy was speaking about the council's decision on Tuesday night to set a January 31 deadline for owner John Ferrara to demolish the former catholic orphanage in Mundy Street.
If this is not met, the council will seek a NSW Land and Environment Court order to demolish the building itself and recover costs from the owner.
Councillors also authorised general manager Warwick Bennett to commence Local Court proceedings over Mr Ferrara's alleged failure to comply with an August demolition order to bulldoze three surrounding buildings in the interests of public safety. He was given until October 31 to comply.
In July, councillors also agreed to negotiate a timeframe for demolition of the main building, given its complexity, asbestos presence and difficulty securing contractors during COVID. They heard on Tuesday that the owner was "yet to provide any useful information that could be used as a suitable timeframe for compliance" with this.
Cr Leah Ferrara declared a pecuniary interest in the matter as the owner is her grandfather.
Numerous fires have ravaged the structures since 2015, triggering the orders' issue. In July, Deputy Mayor Peter Walker said it was beyond repair and people were at risk of being injured or killed. Intruders had breached security fencing, which had not been repaired.
Tuesday's meeting heard that the owner had not complied with the August public safety order or several pre-demolition requirements for the three surrounding buildings. Staff undertook an inspection on September 27.
"It is important to note that by this point a considerable period of time had elapsed in which the public was exposed to a heightened safety risk," staff reported.
Mr Ferrara was subsequently issued with a $3000 penalty infringement notice for alleged non-compliance with the public safety order. He told The Post he had forwarded this to his solicitor and had no intention of paying it.
"I think they're a bunch of idiots," he said of the council.
"They should work with people, not against them. They have gone into the building without my permission."
Mr Ferrara also refuted suggestions he hadn't acted. The caretaker's cottage at the rear was being dismantled and the bricks sold, he said.
Regarding the main building he said he fully intended to demolish it but didn't have "a spare $500,000."
"If they want a fight in court, not a problem. If they want to talk, that's fine. It's simple," he told The Post.
Staff also alleged that the owner had not replaced damaged and missing fencing or installed a separate perimeter around the fire-damaged caretakers cottage by August 5. However this was done by the time of an October 22 inspection.
Planning staff recommended a March 31 deadline for the main building's demolition but Cr Peter Walker successfully argued for a January 31 date. If not met, the council could seek a Land and Environment Court order to commission the demolition and recover costs.
"I've spoken to people (former residents) associated with it and they say 'knock it over,'" Cr Walker said.
"The history is gone and now it's a public safety issue."
After the meeting, planning director Scott Martin said there were financial risks with this course but rules surrounding cost recovery had significantly tightened in recent years. He told the meeting that the council would need to ensure the "community wasn't out of pocket for long" if this action were pursued.
Mr Ferrara has flagged plans for a six-storey 150-apartment complex on the site but has yet to lodge a formal development application.
Cr Peter Walker said the deadline gave him an opportunity to redevelop and "beautify" the property.
Meantime, former orphanage resident and Saint John's reunion organiser, Phil Merigan said it was better to bulldoze the building.
"A lot of boys don't care anymore because there is nothing left to save," he said.
"It has lost whatever soul it had, good or bad. We just hope that the foundation stone can be saved."
The council has required that the foundation stone, crucifix and other stone elements be saved for future interpretation or relocation.
Mr Merigan said he was pleased the council was being "firm-handed" but wished it had happened sooner before it "turned into demolition by neglect."
For Ms Clancy's part, she hoped the demolition would spell the end of fire and vandalism.
"All the neighbours feel the same way. It has been a worry," she said.
"I'm sad about the heritage but I have been for years. There is no heritage left in it."
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