Blight on our Downtown – Dundas and East
by Hubert Hogle
last updated August 17, 2019
The 4 Lyons properties on East St north of Dundas have been abandoned for 20 years and are less than a block from Gibbard District, now under development.
125 East Street
117-125 East St is assessed at $253,000 and has 10-15 yrs tax arrears ($110,000±). It is owned by Geo Lyons Motors Ltd which appears to be insolvent. It was offered for sale for taxes on Oct 19, 2017 but there were no tenders equal to the arrears. Under Municipal Act s.379 (15), the Town had two years to vest it. When dealing with a former service station, it is prudent to do an environmental assessment before vesting.
On Jan 9, 2018, council received a report and passed a resolution directing “that an environmental assessment of the property be conducted; And further that after the results of the environmental assessment are known, staff bring forward a report to Council as to future options and next steps.”
For some reason, for the next 18 months, nothing seemed to happen. Test holes were finally drilled in the summer of 2019. On Sep 25, 2019 staff reported to council that “Additional environmental testing has been completed on two East Street properties. A vesting report will be provided at the next Regular Meeting after analysis is complete.”
But, no report to council was made and no Notice of Vesting was registered. The time for doing so ran out on October 18, 2019. There is nothing in the public record to show why this happened or that council has been briefed on next steps.
There are now a number of options open to the Town. All of them involve repeating the tax sale procedure from the start. It will take a minimum of 14 months before the Town can vest it and it remains open to redemption by the owner in the interim. But, as of the date of writing, the tax sale procedure has not been re-started.
If the property is seriously contaminated, the standard practice would be to write off a portion of the taxes and re-do the tax sale. But, nothing has appeared on the agenda since September 25, 2019 to suggest anything is being done. Not all contamination is so serious as to create a risk. Expert advice is required. Nothing in the public record suggests that this was obtained.
I have promoted the idea for several years that this property be made into a municipal parking lot. There is room for 60± parking spots with additional access from Adelphi St. If there is no serious contamination this is a reasonable option. But, the property just sits there growing up in weeds and becoming a serious blight on our downtown. And nothing appears to be happening.
125 East St
117 East St
69 Dundas E
69 Dundas E: On May 1, 2018, this property, which was also owned by Geo Lyons Motors Ltd., was sold for $90,001 taxes owing to 2461977 Ontario Inc owned by Gurmut Singh, a Mississauga mortgage broker. There is a 2007 environmental report showing no serious contamination. Interior renovations and a plywood parapet were started and then stopped. The hydro line has been disconnected. The unfinished plywood parapet is an eyesore. There are minor violations of the property standards by-law and the derelict building attracts a crowd of loiterers. There is no record of council having been briefed on what the problem is or any enforcement action.
63 Dundas E: This property, owned by the George Lyons estate, has no tax arrears. It has been abandoned for many years and a 1993 environmental report shows contamination of the soil with kerosene probably going back to a fire in the 1920s. It is occasionally insecure and occupied by transients. In 2019, a formal complaint was filed with the property standards officer. The owner cut some brush, leaving it in a pile where it remains today. The owner also boarded up a broken window with a piece of plywood. Several violations of the property standards by-law remain with weed growing up through the cracks in the parking lot and concrete curbs scattered all over the lot.
This summer, a large window was smashed out of 125 East. The opening was partially covered with an old piece of plywood held on by a plank leaning against it. Two sealed 45 gal drums with unknown contents have been left in front.
Rumours have leaked out that the result of the Phase 2 testing indicates contamination. I have no idea of the nature or degree. This is a former service station and it would be surprising if there is not some contamination. If so, it cannot be used for residential or parkland without a further environmental testing, assessment of the risks and possibly remediation. But, regardless, there is no legal impediment to continuing to use 117-125 East for commercial or industrial purposes (eg a parking lot) regardless of it’s condition.
What should happen here is clear. Council should be properly briefed by a qualified environmental consultant on whether the contamination is so serious as to create a risk of legal liability if the property were vested. If so, standard practice would be to write off a portion of the taxes and repeat the tax sale at the lower amount. The object would be to get this property in the hands of a purchaser that who clean it up making it productive with taxes being paid. In my view, this property has value, regardless of it’s condition and, if the price were right, a buyer would emerge.
But, as far as the public record shows, absolutely nothing is being done on this file while tax arrears, already 10-15 years in arrears, continue to accumulate.
Public concerns are not being addressed by staff and worse, the environmental problem, if there is one, is being concealed from the taxpayers who funded the environmental report and will have to make up the taxes that are not being collected.
To me, this is completely unacceptable. This is a wound on our downtown and it has been allowed to fester for far too long.