Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ossington Part IV

When I agreed to rent the old hardware store, I had a vague idea that living in a store might be contravening some zoning bylaws. I wasn't worried about it though, because it was an area of town that needed renters, any renters. I couldn't imagine a complaint, and I couldn't imagine anyone from the City actually paying attention.

Everything was fine until the weasel who ran the marginal little business on the north side decided he would complain to the City that we were living there. I never did find out what exactly his beef was, but I believed it had something to do with the dog.

One day a building inspector showed up. You boys living here? Yep. OK, thanks very much. Soon enough, our landlord was over, telling us the City didn't want us living there. It looked grim. We were now dipping our toes into the unfriendly waters of municipal beurocracy, and I didn't like it at all. There was an opportunity to apply for a varience, but somehow or another, we didn't get an opportunity to make our argument, and the City was leaning on the landlord. I called our local Councillor, who was sympathetic. We met with him and a planner, and looked at our options. Our landlord could take the problem to the Ontario Municipal Board. There was a fee, though, and there were no guarantees. If we could convince our landlord to appeal, it turned out the planner had a plan.

Our landlord was a fine man. He wanted to rent to us because we always paid our rent on time, and we caused no trouble and we looked after the place. He agreed to foot the bill for the appeal fee. The planner sent us around the neighbourhood with a camera, to take photos of every storefront in the area that was not being used for a business. There were plenty of them. The area was not exactly thriving. We mounted the photos on foam-core and made a little display, and off we went to the OMB. Our landlord was there, we were there, the OMB dudes were there. The only person missing was the nasty weasel of a neighbour who caused our grief in the first place. He missed the hearing. Too bad, so sad.

We explained that we were artists and that we wished to continue living and working in the space as we had been doing for a few years. We showed all the other storefronts in the area which people had converted to illegal apartments. The folks at the OMB wasted no time at all in granting our landlord a varience so he could continue to rent to us.

We thought the game was over, until a building inspector showed up a week later. Now that we had our varience to live in the place, it had to meet or exceed code as a dwelling. Now, I did most of the so-called renovations to the place, and I didn't even know what code I was meeting or exceeding. Fortunately, the inspector was not out to get us. He asked for some modest changes to be made to meet the requirements. He mentioned in a friendly way a few other things we really ought to attend to which were not on his report. We took care of the work right away. The inspector came back for a quick look, and we found ourselves enjoying one of the few legal live-work artist studios in Toronto at that time.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It sounds as though you really had the backing of the authorities on this one, as they can be real pricks about zoning issues if they chose to.

Candy Minx said...

Good fun reading these recollections.

Anonymous said...

Stephen's studio was not supposed to be lived in either. but he managed to do so for ten years

A said...

This is a great story.

mister anchovy said...

thank you A!

sp said...

Wow, I really thought you'd have to move. A story with a happy ending when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy. Who knew?