With a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case.
Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well.
For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275. Continue reading
When we last looked in on the Sutherland Saga, one question remained unanswered. Is the four-storey structure looming over the downtown core unsafe?
After a day-long hearing Friday at the Elgin County Courthouse – in which lawyer Valerie M’Garry, representing owner David McGee, and John Sanders, representing the city’s chief building official Chris Peck, parried over the definition of unsafe and is there a definition of a safe structure – little headway was made in what has become a dizzying debate over semantics.
And, as was the case on the opening day of the hearing a week ago, it was Justice Peter Hockin who dominated proceedings. Pondering aloud at one point, “What if this place is not insurable from a liability point of view?”
To backtrack for a moment, the purpose of the two-day hearing is to get down to business and deal with the decision of a three-member court of appeal panel handed down last month in which it ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.
It was a question posed by one of three appeal court justices that cut to the chase in the latest snafu associated with the Sutherland Saga.
Wednesday morning at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, she queried why “a defect in service would make an order null and void.”
Specifically, why would an alleged deficiency in the manner in which Chris Peck, the city’s chief building inspector, delivered a notice to building owner David McGee, warning of demolition of the structure for failure to comply with a previous work order, render it null and void?
Well, that was the determination of Justice Kelly Gorman on Sept. 27 of last year at the Elgin County Courthouse, which let to the city’s appeal of that decision heard last week.
Question for you. What’s a common factor in the demolition of a building and demolition of end-of-life vehicles? Well, in St. Thomas that would be Valerie M’Garry.
For nearly a decade, the London lawyer has steered her client – Sutherland Press building owner David McGee – through the court system, deflecting at every turn attempts by the city to demolish the structure built in 1913.
Twice this year, the hearings have stalled due to M’Garry’s ill health, but at the most recent appearance Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin left no doubt as to what lies ahead in the Sutherland Saga: the matter will be addressed May 24 with or without M’Garry.
“Mr. McGee should take that into account,” cautioned Hockin.
The city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”
A St. Thomas man who abandoned two dogs and a cat in a sweltering apartment with no food or water was sentenced to four months in jail Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, 20-year-old Cody Yeo was slapped with a 10-year prohibition on owning any animal.
In sentencing Yeo, Justice Marietta Roberts – who was handed “graphic” photographs of the squalid apartment unit and the two dead dogs – said she hoped the jail time would act as a deterrent, adding “this is the most appropriate sentence to take you out of the community.”
St. Thomas animal welfare activist Lois Jackson called the term of incarceration “reassuring.”
Held over for another big year . . . The Sutherland Saga.
Watch the City of St. Thomas and David McGee, owner of Sutherland Lofts, pick up where they left off in 2016 . . . back in court.
That’s right, after issuing another work order late in October against the owner of the four-storey Sutherland Press building, McGee has tossed it back in the city’s corner with the declaration, see you in court.
On October 28, the city slapped a new unsafe building order on McGee with what city manager Wendell Graves called a very specific time line.
“They have until Dec. 15 to provide a detailed work plan and schedule to get the thing remedied and then work has to commence by the 9th of January,” Graves told this corner. Continue reading
Round 3 is coming up momentarily. Of course we’re talking about the Sutherland Saga, the seemingly endless courtroom soap opera.
In the last episode, culminating on Sept. 27, Justice Gorman accepted Sutherland Press building owner David McGee’s submission at a May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order issued by the city and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner.
McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, argued in March of this year the city did not properly deliver via registered mail a letter warning demolition of the building would begin at the end of that month because of noncompliance with a property standards order. The order called for immediate replacement of spalling or damaged bricks and securing the roof, which had suffered a partial collapse. Continue reading