"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday 3 February 2011

About Ratepayer's Associations and Such

My first Aurora contact when we moved into a model home on Murray Drive, our house was not complete,was with the Director of Membership for Regency Acres
Ratepayers' Association, the late Les Dodds who lived with his wife Mary on Lee Gate.

The fee was $4.00. R.A.R.A., a newsletter was published. I wrote my first letter to the editor.John White of Jones Court and Eric Franklin of Richardson Drive were publishers. The Association mainly dealt with development problems. It became a social organisation as well. We had some great parties in the basement of the old Greystones restaurant.

ELizabeth asked about requirements for a Ratepayers Association. I believe Provincial regulations require an association to be registered. There must be a constitution and an annual election of officers.It's about collecting fees and gathering funds and such.

Town policy requirements are simple. There must be a minimum of ten residences and membership and twenty individuals. So, depending on numbers of executive officers. membership could be little more than an executive.

Advantage or disadvantage of a Heritage Neighbourhood, is it gives neighbours control of a neighbour's property.

Readers may remember the story about 34 Catherine Avenue during the term before last. A new owner had worked with the town's planning department and a heritage architect to design a renovation which would have been more charming and authentic than the house had ever been. The night before he was entitled to receive a permit,council passed an interim bylaw that stopped him in his tracks.

His neighbour had strong feelings about what should be allowed on the property next door that might affect his life style.

A garage on No.34 created a privacy alcove on his property. It was listing badly toward the ground and might be assisted in its descent. A mature maple had seeded itself and was growing out of the foundation of the garage, providing blessed shade for the neighbour. That could not be allowed to be disturbed.

I was invited to view the interior of the house. Ceilings were hanging with no obvious means of support. Plaster walls were bulging and cracked. A dirt floor basement had been replaced with cement but still wasn't high enough for an adult.

Stairs were narrow and leaning in against the outside wall.

An addition was proposed by the new owner. Non-authentic stucco cladding was to be removed, roof line restored to original, twice removed from existing. Iron rods supporting a small overhang over a small concrete porch were to be replaced by a wrap around verandah with ornamental authentic wood trim.

None of it happened. The new owner replaced the hanging ceilings and bulging plaster walls and rotting floor boards and leased the house to a tenant.

It had been well loved and sheltered generations of the same family for many years. Childhood memories of playing in the street, early in the automobile age were cited as historic reference in a letter requested by the town's heritage planner. As well as a family relationship with a high-ranking officer in the American army.

Some bright spark,joining the fight to save 34 Catherine Avenue from the carpet-bagger, recalled being able to play tennis as a child on Wellington Street.

He never did.

All said and done,it was a small, modest building without pretensions. From an assessment perspective the lot was vastly underutilised. A renovated, enlarged house would have contributed charm to the neighborhood and additional revenue to the town without adding a cent to cost of services.

But it was not allowed.

It did not suit the neighbour and a few others like him.

Mostly that's what a heritage neighbourhood in Aurora is about.It costs the town money and undermines private real estate values.

Susan Morton Leonard owns a beautiful home on Wells Street. It's picture perfect. As are many in the neighbourhood. Houses that thirty years ago were downright shabby and looked like they wouldn't stand much longer,have acquired a new lease on life. New owners with resources and without help from planners and red tape have transformed their homes and neighbourhood beyond recognition.

So passionate are some, to protect what they have, they are now prepared to deprive their neighbours of the same opportunity they had.

A designated heritage neighbourhood requires additional staff complement which results in increased taxes, increased work load and I think reduces interest and therefore value in properties bound up tight in red tape.

I know property owners in that neighbourhood with no interest at all in surrendering property rights to Susan Morton Leonard and a new bureaucracy.

The same holds true in the North East Heritage Neighbourhood, home of the truly amazing traffic calming plan, first visual result of the "special" heritage character of the neighbourhood.

Neighbours there are awaiting that boondoggle to be undone by the new council.


Anonymous said...

"The same holds true in the North East Heritage Neighbourhood, home of the truly amazing traffic calming plan, first visual result of the "special" heritage character of the neighbourhood.

Neighbours there are awaiting that boondoggle to be undone by the new council."

I hope they wait a long time. The first term of Dawe's administration should not be saddled with "undoing" all of the perceived bad decisions of the past council. Do we really want to open up the whole can of worms again over traffic calming? I don't.

Your essay of ratepayers asscociations is interesting. I think that they, like unions, are bad things. Does anyone know if Susan Walmer is involved in this group?

Tim the Enchanter said...

"So passionate are some, to protect what they have, they are now prepared to take away from neighbours the same opportunity they had."

So true.
You just knew that the "traffic calming" mess would get everyone else in town scrambling to be declared "special".
Sorry - we can't afford it.

BTW - Notice to Council
If the residents that actually live on Squiggly Street and Bumpy Blvd. do not agree to fund the reversal of their "special" project themselves then leave that sleeping dog lie. I don't live there and I got stuck with part of the bill the first time around - I'm not paying again.

Tired of a few, hopeful of the many said...

To Anonymous 3:08 - But who is it that is saddling Dawe's administration with "undoing" all "of the perceived bad decisions of the past council."? What about the ones of the council before that, and the council before that, and so on and so on.
I don't hear a great hue and cry from anyone other than a small group of self-appointed windbags, so let's hope the Mayor and council don't fall into the squeaky wheel politics of yore. Consider the source, and if it is a handful of the usual suspects, then you ain't got a real cross-section to go by, do you? Nope, it's just the same few names yapping about their pet peeves and expecting the rest of us to give them what they want whether its what the majority wants or not.
For example, in my opinion, I put Susan Walmer, Susan Leonard, Christopher Watts, Matt Maddocks all in the same boat. Self-declared know-it-alls who think their opinion is the be all and end all.
So I hope that council listens to other people's opinions - or maybe if they don't have one it's because it ain't a real issue for the average citizen so don't waste our council's time trying to make it one. Thank you, and good night.