City orders bridge company to stop work
The Windsor Star
By Doug Schmidt
City building officials were scrambling late Tuesday afternoon to issue a stop work order for crews who appeared to be taking apart one of the abandoned west-end homes owned by the Ambassador Bridge company.
Wall siding and cladding was being removed at a home at 420 Indian Rd. Tipped off by a local resident’s complaint, a building inspector investigated Tuesday and issued an order to comply with Windsor’s Sandwich Heritage Conservation District Plan, which requires a municipal permit for any construction or demolition work in the area.
“That bylaw is very specific,” said city chief building official Lee Anne Doyle. She said the workers on-site indicated they were preparing the building for demolition.
“Nothing with the Ambassador Bridge ever surprises me … they know what the rules are,” said Mayor Eddie Francis.
The bridge company had taken the city to court over its Sandwich heritage bylaw and lost, in the process earning a harsh rebuke from the judge who heard the case.
This latest development comes less than a month after news of local homeowners filing the largest punitive damages civil lawsuit in Canadian history against the bridge company for its creation of a west end “slum.”
Windsor lawyer Harvey Strosberg, representing the plaintiffs, filed the lawsuit, pointing to 112 properties purchased in Olde Sandwich Towne over the past decade by billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun’s company and allowed to be vacated, boarded up and left to rot.
Any such work on a structure in a heritage district requires a heritage alteration permit, said Doyle.
“We appreciate people letting us know,” said Francis. He said the bridge company, which has made no secret of its desire to twin the current span and expand the existing plaza on the Windsor side, is “waiting for the day they catch us snoozing.”
And it might not just be that one house that was being prepared for demolition without permission.
Bridge company president Dan Stamper could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Strosberg says the onus is on Moroun’s company to fix the homes it owns on Indian Road and Rosedale Avenue, the streets on which his two representative plaintiffs live.
The lawsuit, whose allegations have not been proven in court, describes the bridge company’s conduct in the neighborhood as “highhanded, outrageous, wanton, reckless, deliberate, disgraceful and wilful.” It’s seeking $10 million in damages.
“How do you get rid of this multimillion-dollar lawsuit? You get rid of the problem,” said Francis, who describes as “disgusting” the bridge company’s creation of neighhbourhood blight and a “manufactured crisis.”
City council has been under increasing pressure to permit the tearing down of the unsightly homes, in part from neighbours who have been told the bridge company plans to turn part of its holdings into green space.
“What they don’t tell the neighbourhood is that they want to tear down these homes and put up a 40-acre truck stop … they need an expanded plaza,” said Francis.
Originally posted by the Windsor Star