St. Catharines councillor questions if vacancy tax is needed following massive fire

CKTB - NEWS - Welland House Hotel aftermath July 2021

People are lamenting the loss of a historical building in St. Catharines.

Only smoldering remains and a skeleton of the former Welland House Hotel remain this morning after fire crews remained on site all day yesterday, throughout the night, and into this morning.

St. Catharines Council was slated to discuss a heritage designation for the building last night and Councillor Karrie Porter says she is grieving the loss. "I don't know if any parts and pieces of it can be saved somehow and reincorporated in some type of new development."

She adds the events bring some bigger questions to mind as well. "Should we have a vacancy tax or an empty homes tax so residential properties like this, and this was student housing, that we end up adding a tax to it so it incentivizes developers to move forward with a development or keep it full until they are ready to redevelop it and not just let properties sit while they are left to speculate? That's really frustrating. It puts some of these really good properties at risk and it also doesn't help our housing crisis."

A team from the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office, Niagara Regional Police, and St. Catharines Fire Department are investigating the cause of the fire.

No injuries have been reported as the building was considered to be vacant, although Fire Chief Jeff McCormick says someone had to be inside at some time before the fire because there is no ignition source in the building.