An attempt to dream up an entirely new successful attraction could produce a white elephant, Lord says. Instead, she argues, Ontario Place should strongly consider creating a “science city” anchored by an attraction that is already successful: the Ontario Science Centre.
“When you revitalize something as huge, as major, as Ontario Place, the magnet has to be something that is proven. The Science Centre is already an enormous success from the point of view of science, from the point of view of entertainment, for all ages, all populations, both residents and tourists. . . imagine what happens when you move it to a premier site.”
“I think everybody agrees that the sort of kiddie park approach that is going on right now is not sustainable and is not going anywhere,” says O’Connor, whose company owns the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. To appeal to a broader audience, and in all seasons, he says the site could host winter sports facilities, such as snowboarding halfpipes; interactive exhibitions on Toronto’s maritime history and on the future of mass transportation; and perhaps “a little canal system with storefronts and restaurants” that could cater to, among others, the residents of nearby condos.
“We don’t need an aquarium, we don’t need an indoor ski hill, we don’t need a casino,” Farrow says. “We need people to live there” — in both a mixed-income, mixed-use high-rise development like the one being built in Regent Park and in a “funky” year-round houseboat community.
She wants visitors to pay only for specific attractions, not merely to enter the grounds. Among her programming ideas: an “enviro-expo” and transit expo showcasing innovative ideas and technologies; free swimming lessons in the lake; outdoor movies. Her most radical pitch: destroy the amphitheatre and replace it with a small outdoor music space that will “encourage people to bring a blanket and hang out” at cheap or free concerts by local artists.
Unlike Farrow, Madi opposes residential development on the site. Like her, he believes Ontario Place should allow for an all-seasons houseboat community and do away with its general entry fee in favour of charges only for specific attractions. “I personally don’t believe that theme parks work in the long-term. By opening the place up, you bring the volume of traffic up, and then the functions that currently exist become more successful.”
Pedestrian, bicycle and transit access should be improved to better integrate Ontario Place with the city. “Any plans or visions for Ontario Place must include Lakeshore Blvd.”; a streetcar running along the route “would be a phenomenal attraction in and of itself.” A ferry connection from central downtown would also make the site easier to reach.
Ontario Place should become known as a home for events that are part of popular festivals like Pride, Caribana, the Jazz Festival and Luminato, Price says. “While I know there is a capital and hardware side to it, I think the real solutions are going to come on the content side,” she says. “If they gathered a group of us and said, ‘What would it take for us to get you to commit, for example, to use the facility. . . and not change your festivals or rename them, but partner with us, for at least five years, for at least one significant event during your festival, and we would in turn commit to a major marketing campaign.’”
Says Meslin, a community organizer involved in a variety of civic projects: “Maybe part the property could be used as a community meeting space? We have a few large convention centres, but what about smaller groups that can't afford those spaces? Ontario Place is government-owned, so we could create a space that non-profits could use to hold small conferences, retreats, public events and group activities by the waterfront. A planetarium would be cool too though. . .”
Elaborate plans that cannot be fully implemented for years and that will cost taxpayers millions, Ebrahim says, should be rejected in favour of the return of the site to the Toronto public as a park — a “gift with no strings attached.”
“Clearly,” says Greenberg, a prominent architect and urban designer, “the key to unlocking the value of Ontario Place is doing it in combination with Exhibition Place.” In addition, the fences on Lakeshore Blvd. should be taken down in an effort to turn the street into a “real urban boulevard”; access from public transit and waterfront trails, and for small boats like kayaks, should be improved; unsightly surface parking should be made a smaller part of the landscape. And the Ontario Place entry fee should be abolished in favour of public access and single-attraction fees: “The entire site could be thought of as a great park within which you have other uses.”
Bedford, now a member of the Metrolinx board among other titles, also raises the possibility of “finally” integrating Ontario Place and Exhibition Place. “The fact that both these properties are in public ownership is a tremendous asset that should be appreciated,” he says. “To me, it would be a huge waste of energy to ignore the local context of such an important neighbour.”
Nobody the Star spoke with advocated the destruction of the Cinesphere; several made strong pitches for its preservation. Micallef, the author of the book Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, was one of the most impassioned. “It’s not the pods’ and the Cinesphere’s fault that some bureaucrats got lazy over the years and kind of neglected them. Those should be part of whatever happens to Ontario Place.”
He says residential development could inject 24-hour life into the area. As for specific uses: “Hopefully it’ll be small-scale, a whole bunch of small-scale stuff, something that mixes up a whole bunches of uses, rather than one big theme, which is what Ontario Place it was when it opened.. . .I don’t think we do that anymore.”
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Please join in to support a worthwhile cause.
- Pay to stay Treat your child as an adult and try to replicate ‘real world’ conditions by having them contribute to household expenses, chores, and even pay rent. If they aren’t employed, encourage them to actively seek work.
- Invest in a secure future As an alternative to paying rent, insist that your adult child establishes an investment plan to help pay a future down payment on their own home.
- Tax relief If your stay-at-home adult kid is also a student and has no tax to pay, you can relieve some of the pinch on your finances by taking advantage of unused federal tuition and education credits (combined). Up to $750 can be transferred from the student to a parent. (Provincial tax credits may also be available.)
- Define ‘rent’ Is your child paying you fair market value rent or just enough to cover their share of home upkeep and the cost of groceries? If it’s the latter, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says you don’t need to report that income on your tax return but you cannot deduct expenses. If you attempt to claim a rental loss, the CRA will put you to the test of proving the rental rate is at fair market value, and there is a reasonable expectation of profit.
Before closing the purchase of their home, Pierre Marcoux and Caroline Bougie discovered the City of Toronto building department had an “open file” on the house. They wanted the seller, Darlene Remlinger, to rectify the situation by having the city’s file closed.
Typically, sellers are required by the purchase agreement to provide clear title free of any liens, mortgages, and other matters including breaches of the building code or zoning bylaws.
The purchase agreement signed by Marcoux, Bougie and Remlinger was on the typical standard form published by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). It contained a very badly worded 149-word sentence which deals with title problems and outstanding municipal orders.
Translated into understandable English, the tortured provision says that if the buyers object to any outstanding municipal work order or deficiency notice, and the seller is unable or unwilling to rectify the issue or obtain insurance (but not fire insurance) protecting the buyer and any mortgage lender, then the agreement is ended and the deposit returned.
Unfortunately, the sentence was a major contributing factor to the litigation which arose in this case.
In response to the demand by the buyers, the seller and her lawyer offered to provide the buyers with a title insurance policy purporting to protect them against whatever the city was concerned about in its “open file.”
The buyers declined the title insurance and the seller took the dispute to court prior to closing by way of an application under the Vendors and Purchasers Act, asking a judge to rule on the interpretation of the contract.
At the hearing, the buyers argued that even with the title insurance policy, they would be exposed to litigation and uncertainty over the effect of the city file. They objected to being forced to enter into a contract with a third party (the title insurer) against their will.
In an oral ruling last August, Justice Andra Pollak ruled that the purchasers had agreed to accept title insurance in the small print of the standard form contract. They could have refused if they wanted to do so at the time the agreement was being negotiated. The judge declared that the buyers’ objection to the city’s open file was satisfactorily answered by the commitment to provide title insurance.
Not only were the buyers forced to accept title insurance in the face of the city’s open file, but they were also ordered to pay the seller $9,800 in court costs.
In my view, the OREA form does a disservice to home buyers. Title insurance should not be forced on unwilling purchasers to paper over a title defect.
The Remlinger and Marcoux case highlights one of the biggest problems with buying houses in the city of Toronto: the municipal government will not tell purchasers whether the house they are buying is legal, whether it complies with zoning and building bylaws, whether it was built with a permit, and whether it is situated the appropriate distance away from the front and sides of the lot.
For the outrageous sum of $122.89, Toronto Buildings department will send out a form letter stating only that their computer records show no active permits or permit applications, no active Committee of Adjustment applications, no active notices or orders of violation, and no active matters of investigation. The city does not confirm whether or not these matters exist, but rather whether or not they are shown in the city’s computer files — which may not be up-to-date.
If there are any outstanding matters, they are disclosed but not explained in the letter.
Other Ontario municipalities are much more open and transparent in their responses to building and zoning inquiries. They examine land surveys for bylaw compliance, provide copies of zoning bylaws, advise when the building permit was issued and whether the house complies with zoning bylaws.
The city of Toronto does none of these things. Its building department operations are neither open nor transparent, and contribute to unnecessary expense and litigation for home buyers.
Aren’t Torontonians entitled to know whether the houses they are buying are legal?
Court decision: Remlinger v Marcoux.pdf
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
So where would you like to live?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Larry the Landlord and his Illegal Marijuana House
Larry the Landlord has a number of misadventures that are sometimes his own doing and sometimes absolutely at the invitation of others.
Larry [A Fictitious Person] has a rental property available for a reasonable amount of money and finds himself a suitable tenant. The Tenant pays cash for a few months ahead of time and everything seems fine.
The Neighbourhood Watch committee decides that there might be too many cars frequenting the house for short duration visits; so the property must be a) operating as a take out restaurant b) involved in the sale and distribution growth of illegal substances.
The Police take note of the lead from the neighbourhood vigils and start surveillance, obtain a search warrant, serve the warrant, discover the illegal growth of marijuana in the property and promptly arrest all those seemingly [allegedly] involved. The Landlord now has a property with a grow op in his basement and is looking for a solution.
WELL….. The hydro has been disconnected by the local utility as the grow operation may or may not have tampered with the wiring and service panel, Theft of Hydro services may have occurred, inspections need to be made but not before an Environmental Assessment has been made. Removal of the Hydro meter effectively terminates your ability to occupy the property or live in. The Hydro will not be reinstated till the Air Quality Testing has been completed. (Your power tools and lights do not work in an un-powered house; there is no heat.
Mold, Mold may be in the basement caused by the high humidity or the mold could have contaminated the entire property. Inspectors need to be called. Inquiries made. Air Mass sensor are used to measure the PPM parts per million of mold in the air and if the staff can be permitted into a hazardous (toxic) work environment with or without protective suits and masks. A normal home inspection will not suffice. A base line of air quality (outside) is taken to compare with interiors. There will be mold. Mold is in bread, Mold spores are everywhere, not all mold is harmful. Some mold is deadly.
How to identify a Grow House
Remedial action must be performed that may include chemical washing agents, removal of drywall to the joists, removal of all ductwork and wiring, (so that the nooks and crevices can be accessed) possibly sand blasted to clean off the mold. There may be required filtration with HEPPA filtering.
I neglected to mention that the Bank has issued a Power of Sale demand letter on your residential mortgage; You have changed the quality and value of their security, they have added additional insurance premiums for their risk during this period. If you have the financial wherewithal you need to refinance (lenders are available to a max of 50% advance to value, rate is not cheap).The lawyer’s fees for “Correspondence” are added to the Claim amount. You will need a different lawyer to discharge the mortgage. If you owe more the property would actually become a power of sale and revert to the Bank. They may at this point in time become responsible for the remediation.
So lets recap. You have cleaned, remediated, inspected every electrical outlet junction box, light switch and socket; have run new wiring in the basement to all the circuits and upstairs where possible and are awaiting the re inspection and re-certification of your property. You are waiting to remedy any deficiencies found on your ESA Statements. You still have the stigma of being an illegal grow house.
This must be disclosed to the Prospective Purchaser prior to an offer;
The Buyer acknowledges that the property and buildings and structures thereon have been used for a criminal use or activity and acknowledges that the Seller makes no representations and/or warranties with respect to the state of repair of the premises and the Buyer accepts the property and the buildings and structures thereon in their present state and in an "as is" condition.
This offer is conditional upon the Seller providing to the Purchaser's Lawyer to review and find satisfactory in the Buyer's Lawyer's sole and absolute discretion. This documentation shall show evidence that the Seller has had the proper government required inspections of the home completed, and that the home has passed such inspections. These inspections are specific to homes that have been found to contain or used for the growth of illegal substances, regular home inspection reports will not be accepted. The Seller shall also provide receipts and records that all fines have been paid in full and that any other fines that arise due to the manufacture and growth of illegal substances in the house before buyer's completion date shall be paid in full by the Seller. Unless the Buyer gives notice in writing to the Seller personally or in accordance with any other provisions with 10 (ten) business days of acceptance that this condition is fulfilled, this offer shall be null and void and the deposit shall be returned to the Buyer in full without deduction. This condition is included for the benefit of the Buyer and may be waived at the Buyer's sole option by notice in writing to the Seller as aforesaid within the time period stated herein.
But in reality, this house is cleaner, wired up to the standards that are applicable to today’s wiring, inspected for air quality, thermal efficiency (HVAC was all reinstalled remember) City Permits to start and complete the work; Various fines and penalties all paid. In theory Buyers should be lining up to make this purchase.
The Purchaser will find a challenge in obtaining new financing on this property as a high ratio mortgage. Mona Rafiq Mortgage Specialist with CIBC Mortgages was successful in funding a recent purchase with 15% down, a paid CMHC fee, and a slightly elevated interest rate. CMHC will insure previous grow op properties as they understand the remediation and re inspection process.
Do you have a landlord story to share?
If this is not the type of information you are getting from your agent... What are you paying for?