Restrictive covenants: what a tangled web developers weave for homeowners . . . and the city

city_scope_logo-cmykThe following scenario is, no doubt, familiar to residents of the Lake Margaret area.
Some time back, when you purchased your dream home in the ideally located subdivision, you signed a restrictive covenant – an agreement between you and Doug Tarry Limited – which stated “the purchaser shall not use any building erected on a lot for any other purpose than as a private residence and no such building shall be used for the purpose of a profession, trade, employment or business of any description.”
The covenant went on to warn, “the purchaser will not park or store on any lot any trucks of greater than 3/4 ton capacity, boats, trailers and house trailers or any recreational vehicle other than in an enclosed garage.”
Fair enough. An assurance of a quiet, safe neighbourhood in which to raise a family or retire as empty nesters.

However, over the years a blind eye has been turned to those restrictions, the most recent example occurring this month when the city’s committee of adjustment gave the thumbs up to several minor variances in order to allow a childcare centre to operate out of 18 Hickory Lane.
So, who exactly is responsible for enforcing the covenant signed by homeowners as a condition of purchase?
Well, it sure isn’t the city.
In fact, the committee of adjustment hearing has the city’s director of planning Pat Keenan delving further into those restrictions and the possible impact on the zoning process in St. Thomas.
“It’s more of a legal question,” suggested Keenan in a conversation this week.
His take on the matter is a neighbour would have to enforce the restrictions through legal action.
“Usually they put them (the restrictions) in for the purpose of maintaining the look and appearance of the development while they own the development.
“It’s an interesting question,” added Keenan, “and I have the same question and we’re looking for a legal opinion on that. I’m more interested in whether or not that covenant would over-ride zoning.”

“If people are asking this, our response would be you need to get a legal opinion. We don’t get involved in the covenants, we don’t see them.”

Keenan continued, “The city wouldn’t necessarily enforce covenants. It is something that is registered on title.
“It’s a legal question and if somebody wanted to go to court, I guess the courts would answer it. I’m still waiting for our lawyer to give us an answer on it.”
In short, “Enforcement is through the courts,” stressed Keenan.
The convenants are usually in place during development of the subdivision, noted Keenan, and they are registered upon the entire property.
Are they removed upon completion of the subdivision?
“If people are asking this,” said Keenan, “our response would be you need to get a legal opinion. We don’t get involved in the convenants, we don’t see them.
“If it is a violation of zoning, the city would enforce it.”
It would then seem enforcement lies with the developer. Or, does it?
“If somebody asked them (the developer), then maybe they should ask their lawyer because they are the ones who put the covenant on,” noted Keenan.
“If you ask one question, it generates other questions. And if we’re going to get these questions, which obviously we are, we’ll get some sort of legal position.”

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Can’t remember such a report in recent memory, however performance numbers presented to city council at Monday’s (Aug. 12) meeting from fire chief Bob Davidson are impressive.
These dispatch and response times when compared to best practice standards, allow council “to measure the performance of its fire department,” advised Davidson.
fire-demolation-jpgThe National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – an international organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire – has determined fire calls must be answered in 15 seconds, 90 per cent of the time.
From December of last year up through May of this year the average time to answer calls in St. Thomas was 11 seconds.
The NFPA standard for call processing time is 64 seconds, 90 per cent of the time.
Over that same six-month period, the St. Thomas average was 43 seconds.
And, the NFPA standard for the first unit to arrive at the emergency scene is four minutes, 90 per cent of the time.
The St. Thomas department had an average travel time of three minutes and 12 seconds in that six-month period.
Encouraging performance numbers and we will talk to Warren Scott, president of the St. Thomas Professional Fire Fighters Association, about those standards and the status of contract talks which, for the first time in more than 30 years, went to arbitration.

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To control the burgeoning Canada geese population, the parks and recreation department changed strategy in 2016 and adopted egg oiling as a method of population control.
The city had relied on hazing or disturbing the birds in their habitat the prior year.
This new approach involves coating the eggs with non-toxic oil to block air exchange through the pores in the egg, thus preventing the embryo from developing. The birds continued to incubate the eggs until it is too late to re-nest.
geese on lawnjpgThe aim is to reduce the number of geese returning to the various nesting sites, which reduces noise, droppings and damage to the parks.
In 2017, Pinafore Park, Lake Margaret and Waterworks Park were added to the city’s goose management program.
In May of this year Adrienne Jefferson, the city’s supervisor of parks and forestry, updated council on the status of the egg oiling program.
“In 2018 season 280 eggs were oiled,” advised Jefferson. “As of April 29 (of this year), approximately 300 eggs have already been oiled in all 3 locations.”
Cost of the program this year is approximately $8,000.
Has the program been effective in reducing the bird population in the parks?
Well, reader Chris wonders if it has been too much of a deterrant.
He notes the once flourishng population of Canada geese has virtually disappeared this summer.
On recent trips to all three areas, he advises he has seen virtually none of the once prolific birds.
He adds, “I thought the city’s plan was to thin the numbers of newborn geese – looks like they’ve chased the entire population from our midst. And that’s sad.”
We’ll check in with Jefferson for an update and a determination on whether the population management program has proven too toxic.

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Following last week’s item on the committee of adjustment hearing earlier this month in which permission was given to Patricia Riddell-Laemers for a minor variance to operate a childcare centre out of her home at 18 Hickory Lane, neighbour John O’Reilly – who appeared before the committee – submitted the following observation.

“Kangaroo Court indeed. I was there for both the meeting on 11 July and the non meeting on 6 August. Decision was already made and the first meeting was lip service.
“What I find oddly disturbing is that the figures on the application for variance differ from that of the planning technician’s report and, when pressed, he admitted he actually never went out for a site visit. Guess he got all his figures from Google Earth.
“So, if he never went to the property, how did he determine the driveway was adequate for two vehicles allowing for one residence spot and one daycare spot? “It was pointed out by a committee member that she was familiar with this property and that it was a single vehicle driveway.
“How also can the committee make a motion at the meeting on 11 July to have the property properly measured by an expert, in a motion, and then decide that they would just go and look around.
“From that they approved the variances – don’t say variance – as the property was deficient in three areas. Why give notice of a meeting to “reconsider” the variance and why in hell let several people attend what was thought to be a second meeting, only to be shut out and treated like dirt.
“The applicant and her agent were given the courtesy of a heads up not to attend. Guess we know who has pull in St. Thomas.
“Shakespeare said in Hamlet “something’s rotten in Denmark.”
“I think it’s a lot closer to home!!!!”

Regarding the wave-action sidewalk on Holland Avenue, reader Dave Mathers chipped in with the following.

“Our new City Engineer/Director of Environmental Service appears to be continuing his ‘New Math’ (i.e. – head scratching) approach to roads and sidewalks in the city.
“That list includes the bungling of the rebuilt Talbot St. West (NO bike paths even though there are about four feet of bricks on both sides!!); the drastic narrowing of Stanley St. and, the piece de resistance, the more than 90-degree turn to get into Pinafore Park when coming from the west.
“And then there is this example!! Is anybody really watching?”

On the same topic, Ken G. had this reminder.

“There was no sidewalk there prior. To these eyes, it looks like it was less costly to have the sidewalk follow the lay of the land that was there than to level it out and then require more sod.”


Relish Harvest jpgTickets are now on sale for Relish Harvest, 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at the St. Thomas Elevated Park. It is billed as, “a farm-to-table dinner overlooking the vistas of the Kettle Creek valley . . . Enjoy the bounty of the harvest prepared by area chefs while you watch the sun set over the fields and forests of Elgin county. Tickets are $50 and available at

Singer-Songwriter Dennis Kalichuk and the Jumbo Train band will be performing at the Princess Avenue Playhouse 7 p.m. Nov. 8. Dennis and the band will be celebrating the release next month of the album Lifesaver. Their November date will feature music from that project plus songs from their previous releases. Tickets are $18 and available at

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