As a follow up to a letter penned by Ward 6 candidate Bryan Dumanski, Saultonline.com visited the Bensons at their Nichol Ave home.
The trouble started for the Bensons when council green lit a new duplex at the former site of the Korah Branch library on Second Branch Library. The couple who built their home years ago hoping it would be their retirement nest egg, were against the development because it infringed on their privacy. The reconstructed building would allow windows in the units that were in direct line of sight to their home.
“We haven’t been able to open our windows since May because of all the dirt and dust from the project”, Marie Benson told Saultonline.
The couple are not opposed to a new development, but they say they were intimidated by the developer and the City, ” We were overwhelmed and very intimidated by the proceedure,” said Mr. Benson. Mrs. Benson said that Mayor Amaroso asked someone involved with the development if he thought that the property values of the nearby houses would depreciate in value. Assured it would not, by the opinion of the man, Mrs. Benson reported that Mayor Amaroso took his word and quickly tossed the neighbourhood petition with 66 signatures into the basket. The 66 signatures on the petition represented 100% of the houses the City stipulated in a letter that they could petition.
The Bensons claim their concerns were never addressed by either the builder or City staff. The council decision was sent to the Ontario Municipal Board when the Bensons objected to the plans of the new duplex. OMB favoured with the City. “We were never informed of the OMB decision” Marie Benson said.
The new duplex, currently under construction, towers over the Bensons home and is built very close to the property lines. The Bensons claim that people living in the duplex will be able to see into the Benson home. The Bensons say their home value has dropped substantially and now their retirement is in jeopardy. “We can’t sell our house, no one wants it” Benson said. The Bensons recently listed their home on the market and had some interest but as soon as potential buyers noticed how close the Duplex was going to be, interest dropped. “We stopped getting offers and took it off the market” Marie Benson claims their home value has dropped $150,000 since the duplex was approved .
“The proximity of the building, its height and windows leave absolutely no privacy in the Benson house and yard. Mrs. Benson has suffered several heart attacks because of the stress endured. If this was YOUR parent’s house, what would you do? If your parents were intimidated by the City and Developer, what would you do? Is this the way we treat our senior residents?” Dumanski said in the letter.
The Elderly couple said they would have been happy to receive an offer from the developer at a fair market price but no offer was made. “They told us they would put up some trees for our privacy, but trees don’t have leaves all year long and the trees they plan on planting along the property lines will take years to mature.
“Variances were changed to facilitate the Developer’s wants by the Building and Planning departments. I place the blame on the City planning and the powers that be.” Dumanski said.
The Bensons now want to move but the duplex continues to be a sore point , “not even our family wants the house – we can’t sell it without losing everything”.
At the OMB hearing, Peter Tonazzo from the City planning department said ” the effect on property values is unknown and not a concern considered under the Planning Act.”
In all 12 units are being constructed on the property.
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