The owner of the house at 195 Simcoe St. has a letter on this Monday’s Development Services Committee meeting Agenda, stating his intention to demolish the house "as per the order from Property Standards dated May 27, 2020".
I am perturbed by how the story has played out. The City needs to enact changes to Oshawa's Property Standards By-law that stop developer’s DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT so that situations like what has transpired at 195 Simcoe St. are not repeated.
During the past two years I contacted Service Oshawa and Municipal By-law Enforcement concerning the disrepair of 195 Simcoe St. N. I asked specifically that the City address the graffiti and the fact a blue tarp placed on the roof was not covering the LARGE HOLE IN THE ROOF but was hanging down the front of the building..
When there was no apparent improvement but rather more neglect of the building, with the blue tarp in shreds, I had a conversation with senior staff asking what was being done. I was told the City must adhere to procedures under Oshawa’s Property Standards By-law which require a Court process when an owner fails to comply with Municipal By-law Property Standards Orders. In fact NO FINES CAN BE COLLECTED UNTIL THERE IS A COURT ORDER. Also under the By-law orders issued, the owner is given the choice to remediate or demolish.
For the July 13, 2020 City Council meeting, I submitted the following Motion:
Whereas 195 Simcoe St N. had a fire in 2019 and the premises on the City’s main street has been left in a derelict state for over a year;
Whereas the City’s municipal by-law has received complaints and attempted to address the deficiencies;
Whereas the dwelling has historic significance to the City of Oshawa;
Now therefore staff prepare a full report to Council outlining what steps have been taken to date and future actions planned to see that property standards are maintained at this site."
Near the beginning of the meeting when I spoke about this motion Mayor Carter peremptorily said he was not allowing it because the matter was being dealt with by staff.
When another heritage property, ironically also on Simcoe St. but about 8 km north, at 3860 Simcoe St., also was left in a state of disrepair after the 2017 purchase by a developer, and after residents’ complaints, the City requested it board up for security. Then three weeks ago, 13 months after the first complaints, more people complained when they noticed the front door was open. The City again requested it be boarded and made more secure.
I wrote senior staff asking:
"Is there nothing in the City’s by-laws stating Oshawa property owners must be responsible and a fine can be levied if they abandon checking up on their vacant buildings, even when boarded up?
Vagrants or others can gain access and create stress and problems for neighbours and the City. Unfortunately, it seems in many respects currently the City’s hands are tied.
Problems that occur are not limited to this building owned by the developer Sorbara.
There is the vacant dwelling on Simcoe and Elgin where there was a fire in 2019 (and it is still an eyesore on Oshawa’s main street in proximity to the downtown)."
Subsequent to sending that email, the City Solicitor shared a couple sections of the Ontario Building Act. Note: Municipal property standards by-laws are based on the Ontario Building Act.
Section 15.4 of the Act allows municipalities to “cause the property to be repaired or demolished accordingly” and impose a “lien for the amount spent on the repair or demolition” and issue administrative monetary penalties
Section 15.4(1) states that "The purpose of a system of administrative penalties established by a municipality under this section shall be to assist the municipality in promoting compliance with a by-law under section 15.1 or an order under subsection 15.2 (2). 2017.
Imo this Section, which was new in 2017 needs to be integrated into the Oshawa Property Standards By-law.
What's more, it should be written with particular application to properties with absentee owners, vacant structures, and, in particular Oshawa's heritage buildings. This is only fitting, considering the goal of the By-law is to ensure real property conditions are maintained and do not detract or present a hazard to the neighbouring environment and one of the goals of the City's Strategic Plan is to protect Oshawa's heritage resources.