Moroun Finds Excuse to Tear Down Windsor Homes

Ambassador Bridge plans to demolish Indian Road homes for emergency repairs

CRAIG PEARSON, WINDSOR STAR

More from Craig Pearson, Windsor Star

Published on: March 17, 2017 | Last Updated: March 17, 2017 8:56 PM EDT

Ambassador Bridge officials intend to tear down vacant homes on the east side of Indian Road soon in order to make emergency repairs demanded by the federal government, the head of the company’s Canadian arm said Friday in court.

And they don’t need the City of Windsor’s approval to do it, Dan Stamper, president of the Canadian Transit Company, testified.

Three emergency repair orders from Transport Canada in less than a year mean the homes must be demolished — something the city has blocked for years — as soon as the bridge company completes an engineering report and purchases the required materials, he said.

“We have the obligation to maintain an 85-year-old bridge,” Stamper said. “The federal government gave us an emergency directive and I have to do the maintenance. And the only way to do the maintenance according to our experts is to remove the homes on the east side of Indian.”

Stamper said Transport Canada has already been informed in writing about the demolition plans and that the city will be notified in advance.

The estate of Stephen Chaborek, who died on the weekend, and five members of the Desando family who also own two homes in Olde Sandwich Towne are suing the Canadian Transit Company for $16.5 million in damages — alleging that boarding up homes and allowing them to decay hurts the neighbourhood.

William Sasso, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, expressed surprise Friday over the bridge’s plans and wondered what documentation gives the company authority to demolish homes.

“We’re not talking about the contractors the CTC deals with, we’re talking about the federal government and whether they have given a directive that permits the demolition of these properties,” Sasso said. “That’s news to us. And I haven’t seen such documentation.”

Stamper said the company only requires city approval to demolish homes for construction. It does not need city approval for demolition if it’s required to complete repairs dictated by Transport Canada, because it’s a federal entity, he said.

The Ambassador Bridge originally proposed building a second approach to the span, then closing down the current approach in order to rebuild it, but the federal government nixed the idea. Stamper said short of closing the bridge, there’s no other way to make significant repairs without demolishing homes to allow for needed equipment.

“They don’t need permission if it’s a federal undertaking,” defence lawyer Sheila Block said. “The city will be notified. Maybe they will go and try to get an injunction. But we’re not doing this in the dead of night.”

Earlier in the day, Stamper suggested the city has a conflict of interest when it comes to preventing the Ambassador Bridge from building a second span.

“We have applied for and have been denied the right to demolish the homes because the city is concerned more about litigation than they are about the safety and security of the community,” Stamper testified.

Stamper said the city is the Ambassador Bridge’s No. 1 competitor, since it owns the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, and therefore has a financial stake in blocking the bridge from expanding. Plus, he said the city sold property for $34 million to the federal government to make way for the proposed Gordie Howe International Bridge to be built just two kilometres east of the Ambassador Bridge.

Sasso asked how much revenue the bridge collected in tolls in 2016. Stamper estimated it was about $40 million on the Canadian side and $40 million on the American side.

Again under cross-examination, Stamper acknowledged that the bridge has partially contributed to the poor state of area homes, though he said it has nevertheless maintained the properties as required by municipal code.

“Do you agree with me, Mr. Stamper, that you have allowed all of the houses that you’ve purchased to fall into a state of extreme disrepair?” Sasso asked.

“I agree that these homes are older homes and some of the effects over the last few years would add to the effects that happened over 50 years,” said Stamper, who noted that the company started buying Windsor property in the early 1990s with the goal of demolishing them.

Sasso also wondered if the company’s property on the west side of Indian Road would ever serve a business function. Stamper said they might be needed to aid in construction of the second span one day.

The cross-examination of Stamper continues Monday in front of Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey.

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Bridge Should Fix Vacant Houses: Mayor Francis

The Windsor Star

Posted by: Chris Vander Doelen

Mayor Eddie Francis says the Ambassador Bridge should be the ones to repair the west end neighborhood it blighted by buying and boarding up 112 mostly single family homes.

Francis was asked repeatedly this week what the City of Windsor plans to do about the ruined neighborhood now that it has won a years-long legal case against the bridge regarding the fate of the homes.

“Why should we be the ones doing anything?” Francis said after the decision was released this week. The city doesn’t own the houses and it didn’t do anything to cause what happened to them.

“There is only one party that can correct this problem quickly and that’s the CTC,” he said. The Canadian Transit Company, which owns the bridge, owns all the homes and should repair them, the mayor says.

This week’s legal decision identified the companies as the culprits in destroying what was once an attractive, cosy and culturally significant neighborhood. They should fix what they’ve wrecked, Francis says. “They boarded up the houses and let them fall into disrepair.”

Justice Richard Gates wrote in his decision that it “is not hard to have some sympathy for the Olde Sandwich Towne residents . . . there was neither blight nor abandoned houses until CTC started to buy them in 2004.”

Francis says the Amabassador Bridge group “has a real opportunity to be good corporate citizens here” by reversing the “community destruction” they wreaked on the neighborhood.

“They could put these houses back into the shape they were in before the Ambassador Bridge decided to create this problem. Some of the houses are still in very good shape.”

Those that aren’t can still be repaired, Francis says, and “that’s the kind of conversation we want to have.”

Realistically, however, Francis believes the homes will remain the way they are for years to come. The bridge intends to appeal its loss, and is not likely to change it behaviour or its tactics. “We’re completely tied up by the process started by the CTC.”

Judge dismisses boarded-up house suit

CBC News

A superior court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Windsor, the mayor and councillors brought on by the Canadian Transit Company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, and property owners who call themselves the “Boarded Up Houses Demolition Action Group.”

Justice Richard Gates has also awarded costs to the city mayor and councillors. The city’s legal bill totals more than $2 million. The Canadian Transit Company and action group will have to jointly pay the costs.

The residents’ group is comprised of 200 people, including Coun. Hilary Payne.

The group and Canadian Transit Company argued an “improperly” passed interim demolition control by-law prevented the Ambassador Bridge Company from demolishing vacant and boarded up houses it owns along Indian Road.

They also claimed the city has unnecessarily imposed a heritage designation on the area, which restricts what they can do with their homes.

Gates said the city acted in good faith and in transparency, contrary to the bridge company’s assertion that city council had made illegal decisions in camera.

Mayor Eddie Francis is pleased with what he calls a “strongly worded decision.”

“It says very clearly and states very definitively that the city operated and did everything that a city would be expected to do and that is to protect the interests and advance the interests of the community and of its residents,” Francis said.

Gates called the bridge’s arguments “disingenuous” to the point of being “arguably an abuse of process.”

The judge said some of the issues raised contain many untested allegations and suppositions without substantial proof.

He believes the Ontario Municipal Board would have been a more appropriate course of action to consider the bylaws.

Judge Gates added the Canadian Transit Company has attempted to challenge the integrity of council and its process as a means of diverting attention from its relentless efforts to advance its own economic interests.

Court rejects anti-DRIC complaints by bridge, enviro group

Today’s Trucking

DETROIT – A Federal Court dismissed allegations by the Ambassador Bridge Company and the Sierra Club of Canada that the government breached environmental guidelines and other procedures when deciding to build a new public crossing downriver.

The decision means that the Detroit River International Crossing has cleared another hurdle towards starting the bridge project.

The court ruled that Canadian Transit Company and the Sierra Club of Canada’s complaints were “without any merit.”

The Canadian Transit Company insisted that Transport Canada was “biased” when it rejected the private bridge’s proposal to build a twin span rather than constructing a new crossing 3 km southwest.

The court found that the reasoning behind the rejection of the twinned Ambassador – that there was no crossing redundancy in case of a terrorist attack – was a valid decision by Transport Canada.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club said that Transport Canada breached the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act by purchasing $34 million of land from the City of Windsor before an environmental assessment was completed, and that authorities disregarded a principle under the Act for studying adverse environmental effects against endangered species during the construction.

Both allegations were dismissed.