Rooming house gets OK from city

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By Paul Zimbalatti

A rooming house at the centre of a neighbourhood controversy was granted a six-month conditional operating licence last Thursday.

Last week, The Eyeopener falsely reported that the city was trying to close down the building on 299 George St.; however the city’s Rooming House Licensing Commission was reviewing the viability of the property, not attempting to shut it down.

Scheduled for review last December, the license’s renewal was postponed when the Garden District Ratepayer’s Neighbourhood Association (GDRNA) accused the rooming house owner, Charlotte Grad, of not meeting property management by-laws.

Deputy Licensing Commissioner Fred Breeze, however, granted her a temporary license Thursday that will be reviewed in June.

Terri Rea, the commission’s administrator, said this did not reflect a desire on the city’s part to have the licence revoked.

“If we want to keep an eye on (a rooming house), the commissioner will give a three-, a six-month, or a one-year licence,” she said. “This is certainly not out of the ordinary.”

Twelve conditions were placed on the licence, including the maintenance of a “proper state of repair,” compliance with “all necessary health, safety, housing, licensing, maintenance and any other standards,” and “on site supervision.”

Michael Roberts, constituency assistant to ward councillor Kyle Rae, said these conditions are not exclusive to the George Street property.

“They’re the same conditions that are on about half a dozen, or 10 rooming houses in the neighbourhood. It’s certainly not anything too onerous for the owners.”

Rae himself commended Grad and the “tremendous changes” she and the property manager, Steve Bourgeois, have effected.

“They are a stellar example of new ownership prepared to invest and improve the building so that it becomes a good neighbour,” he said. “it was a mess two years ago.”

In last week’s issue of The Eyeopener, it was suggested that Grad was the owner of the property in April of 1999. In fact, Grad and her partner purchased the property in March of 2001.

She agreed that the area, and the property itself, had problems which she and Bourgeois have tried to alleviate by being “careful and selective as to who the tenants are.”

Rae said that Grad has helped the neighbourhood by respecting the residential neighbours, making sure that security is maintained, keeping garbage off the property, and ensuring that illegal activities are not tolerated.

Bourgeois said he often calls the police, but not because of situations at 299 George St.

“About 95 per cent of (the offences) didn’t happen on the property, but as a responsible property manager, if I see a man with a gun on the street, I’m going to call the police,” he said. “We’ve been aggressive calling the police and using police resources to clean up our neighbourhood.”

But the police response is one of the reasons the GDRNA would like to see the rooming house closed, said association vice-president Eva Curlanis Bart.

“We don’t care if the violence is not generated specifically by the residents of that property,” she said.

Another neighbourhood association, Toronto’s East End Downtown Neighbourhood Alliance, supports Grad’s efforts.

“This has been a problem property, but now there is good management,” said president of the interim board Madelyn Webb. “We don’t want them to be discouraged.”

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