What Would OFFICER Gladys Kravitz Do About the Bad Neighbour?
November 17, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Please help me to find, and to understand Toronto's Construction and Parking By-Laws, and then how to have them enforced and upheld strictly, quickly, and legally in order to protect our rights, our property and our peace of mind. I have been to the city's website, and have downloaded Chapter 363 Building Construction and Demolition and am trying to understand how to apply the information in it. I've Googled, and have written to the City Planner and our local Councillor's office for information and advice - but know from experience that their responses take days if not weeks and I see that we will sometimes need to immediately effect change. Jokingly mentioning to the construction workers "Please kind to your neighbours!" isn't working. I need to take Gladys Kravitzing to the next level.

I need help, for example, on where to find information for things like IF it's allowed for a construction vehicle or employee's personal vehicle to take up space on a permit parking street, and if it's not, how to have it ticketed as a deterrent or removed - within a reasonable time frame, not over days and without me having to approach the construction site and plead for relief with my kid and dog and bags of groceries and grumpy mood in tow. How do I best get someone to come and measure decibels, if there's a violation? I understand inspection of the foundations of nearby properties is supposed to be done within a specific distance before construction starts - but it hasn't been done. And when they violate the No Construction on Sunday By-Law, what is the best way to get someone on top of that, pronto? And how can I be sure that inspections are taking place at the right stages (For example, the lot's probably supposed to have proper construction fencing right now, but doesn't yet)? Who's the boss of these things, and how can I brown-nose better to get results? If you're a builder or developer, and can tell me how to make this work better, please do tell!

I'm actually asking as point person for a bunch of us. This developer met with the neighbours on our street over the course of six months to get us to agree not to object at the OMB for zoning changes on two developments a few doors away from each other. With the Councillor involved, and City Planning as well, we all made some compromises and prepared, grudgingly, for the developments. Over the past two years, as the economy changed, and he had trouble with his finances and other projects and hold-ups with his site plans and permits, the lots stagnated. They went into disrepair, there was criminal activity on his properties, we made several complaints first directly to him, then filed Community Complaint Reports with the police, and complained to MLS . He did such things as dig giant holes to get the next stages of his funding by "breaking ground", then left them to sit over the summer, filling with water and becoming mosquito pits. We called Public Health in on that, but by the time that was to be resolved, he'd got his permits in place and planned to start building, so it was let go. But nothing was ever really done, ever, though all this, to deter him from being a jerk or encourage him to be a better neighbour or to satisfy us, because by the time the police would get there the deal would be over; or MLS would send an inspector, and he'd come in under the wire and do a quick and "good enough" clean up after weeks of dumping or other problems like overgrown foliage sheltering the drug transactions. Now he's cancelled the larger of the developments and has returned the deposits, the one that was to be the "gateway" for the smaller one that I personally am stuck next to - which was not what we all agreed to and nobody's happy, but it's too late. The City Planner tells us that he filed the applications separately, that the lots were never linked together as far as permits and site plans are concerned, despite the fact that that's what we considered while we negotiated - so we're S.O.o.L. We now know not to trust him. He will not respond directly to us any more. I have a friend who bought a unit in the one that's being built next door, which is the only speck of light in this whole dark disaster - and he has given me some inside information that's been helpful. It's a residential street with only ten houses on it - but suddenly we are getting a fifteen unit apartment building right next door, thanks to the City's mandate for density and a stupid Industrial zoning that can be changed to a Live/Work designation, but not strictly Residential.

I am asking for my neighbours as well as my own family: How can we help to make sure that from here on in, he toes every line, dots every i and crosses every t and cannot make our lives any more difficult now that we're wise to him -- and use what rights and protections and means we have to enforce them? Sharing experiences on what worked for you and your nightmare neighbourhood developer would be comforting, and perhaps helpful. Sharing tips as a construction boss on how to encourage law-abiding and courteous, neighbourly behaviour would be great too.

I'd love to be the kind of person who buys the crew a coffee gift card and chats over the fence about the weather and then drops a "You know, starting at 6:47 when the by-law says 7 is not something we're going to overlook too often, so...couldya knock it off?" - but after a week of this, with every time I have to twitch my curtains, I'm more in the mood to put a By-Law officer on speed-dial.

Throwaway email: me.GladysKravitz@trash2009.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (3 answers total)
Not an expert in this sort of thing, but I think you'd need to hire a lawyer to get anywhere with this. My guess is that the city's resources are stretched thin, and it also doesn't want to do anything to get in the way of any construction that might actually happen, lest the developer simply abandon the whole project as-is. Worse, the more often you complain without any sort of force backing you up, the more you train the developer to believe that you're toothless.

It also sounds as if your irritation is getting the better of your reason. This guy is not your "neighbor." He doesn't owe you "satisfaction." He just has to obey the law, and it doesn't sound as if you have a clear idea of what the law says about the problems you're facing. This is not the way to be taken seriously.
posted by jon1270 at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2009

I would explore the avenues you already have: the Councillor has already been involved and is aware of the history here, so start beating down his door. Also see if you can reopen the complaints that have already been filed, on account of the resolutions not actually holding. After that, for the day-to-day stuff (and I'd keep on this via a broken-windows theory), keep calling parking enforcement and the planning/building department that controls the permits. You may want to consider delegating a little bit so that it's not just the point person doing all the work, the city agencies will likely take more notice if all of you are complaining. As the point, you can just be the one to figure out who's ear gets burned next until you get satisfaction.

I'm not sure a lawyer would really be worth it for this, I think you just need to use your democratic powers and your representatives in government, basically, to bring the system down on them. There may also be anti-development groups in TO that would be able to help you figure out which i's should be getting dotted and which t's should be crossed.
posted by rhizome at 3:20 PM on November 17, 2009

Call your City Councilor. Have a meeting, give your group a name, and invite the councilor, mayor, and any other elected officials who have any authority in zoning, inspections and enforcement.

Take several members of "Protect Our Neighborhood" to the construction company's main office and ask for a meeting.

My neighborhood fought a powerful corporation this way. We each took a problem area, and researched it. Make sure problems are well documented.
posted by theora55 at 5:21 PM on November 17, 2009

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