The Lewiston City Council got another discouraging update on efforts to work with former restaurateur Praveen Khurana to remove the fire-destroyed remainder of his Emperor of India King Thai eatery at 854 and 858 Main St.
Assistant City Attorney Kayla Hermann told councilors at their regular Monday night meeting that City Building Official John Smith had not received a letter by an Aug. 23 deadline from Khurana’s engineer detailing the steps he needs to take to make the property safe. One week later, Smith sent Khurana a letter noting the report was overdue and ordering him to remove the building.
But the letter did show up that same day, so Smith sent Khurana a revised letter Sept. 1 directing him to comply with the engineer’s report by taking certain steps by Oct. 1, including rerouting water drainage away from the building, removing electrical components, bracing walls, removing brick and securing the fire escape at the adjoining Wells Fargo building. Smith also issued a demolition permit so those measures could begin.
“As of today, that has not occurred,” Smith told the council. “Right now, we’re 13 days into the 30, and there’s really been no action.”
An electrical inspection of the property will be conducted this morning so temporary power can be restored to aid in any demolition effort, he added. A request to restore water service was denied, however.
If the deadline comes with no significant progress, the city may take legal action that will allow it to enter the property to clean up the nuisance, then bill Khurana for the cost or place a lien on the building.
A December 2019 fire of undetermined origin destroyed the property, which has continued to deteriorate for almost two years. Khurana is also facing charges of 22 misdemeanor zoning code violations in Nez Perce County Magistrate Court over his alleged failure to abate the property.
In other business:
City councilors voted 5-2 to create a new Normal Hill/downtown urban renewal area, with Councilors John Bradbury and John Pernsteiner voting no.
The plan for the area focuses on infrastructure goals, like improved connectivity between Normal Hill and downtown, wayfinding signs to help tourists find notable areas and helping property owners remove dilapidated buildings.
The goals in the plan are largely based on the downtown master plan the council adopted in 2019 to help spur redevelopment in the city’s primary historic district.
The area can now begin collecting the property taxes from new growth in the area. The city could then use the money to eventually fund projects, or secure financing based on the promise of future funding.
Bradbury chided the City Council for not considering a new face mask mandate in the face of a raging coronavirus pandemic that has filled local hospitals with unvaccinated patients.
When he brought the topic up several weeks ago, his fellow councilors said they would rather get an update from public health officials before considering a new mandate. That hasn’t happened yet, apparently because of scheduling issues with Public Health – Idaho North Central District Director Carol Moehrle.
City Manager Alan Nygaard said Moehrle is now scheduled to address the council by Zoom at a 5:15 p.m. meeting next Monday at the Bell Building, 215 D St.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.