The City and Developer Destroyed Their Lives

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benson-05On the eve of a municipal election Keith and Marie Benson have a problem with City Hall and a local developer.

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 under construction is fairly close to the Benson's home
The new duplex under construction is fairly close to the Benson’s home

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.

 

Related Story: Bryan Dumanski Wants Answers

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I totally agree with you Nathan – The housing market in this city is so over priced that apartment complexes like this are an important part of the Sault’s economy. People in this city need to grow up and mind their own business. I personally would like to live there. I know the developer and I believe they are doing a great service to this community. They’re developing a million dollar complex which creates well needed jobs that this city needs.
    On a personal note Martin Verdecchia, I would think twice before you made a stupid comment!!! Violence doesn’t solve anything!!

  2. When someone has nothing good to say its because they are jealous. Envy makes you ill not someone building a unit. At least they want to provide you with trees for privacy. Have you ever heard of cedar trees, they live all year round. Market value does not go down that low, where do you get your numbers. Start drying your clothes in a dryer no one wants to see your clothing. Also there are other important things going on in this world to complain about. By the way it’s called a twelve plex not duplex do your homework grace.

    • No one would buy this property with a huge structure full of people right next to their yard. What was once a small library has now tripled in size and daily activity of people. Their is no where to fit cedar trees safely in this space. People have every right to be protected. This will leave just another empty unsellable house in the Sault area. All while unnecessarily building new units outside of the once thriving downtown core. Its no wonder why every intelligent young person has fled this wasting town.

  3. Since when does a “DUPLEX” equal 12 units? And I always got an A in math……something is wrong with this picture. Thanks for bringing this story forward.

  4. If the proximity of a multi-unit complex to an abutting residential property meet’s the city’s own “Buffering Requirements” for building, then it appears that it clearly needs to be changed. If an exception was granted for this building to be “reconstructed” on it’s original foundation in order to avoid meeting the Buffering Requirements, then there is a problem, considering the height of the new structure.

    That building was almost completely taken apart with only the rear and side walls left standing, when it looked like it was going to be completely demolished. I wonder if they kept a percentage of the original structure in order to avoid it being considered a new build, which would have held them to the new building standards, which would likely not have allowed this to be build in its current location, so close to the property line.

    There should have been a height restriction then, as a condition of the reconstruction, if this was going to create an issue for the abutting property. How could someone not have realized this in advance?

    If the right thing isn’t done, this will be a great precedent for others to use, when they want to change the city’s rules and building requirements…

    My response to the original article was as follows. Hopefully the developer will do the right thing.

    “I once owned a home where a company had already received all the approvals to operate their business, which severely interfered with the enjoyment of our property.

    With a very prepared meeting in our home we talked with the head of the company, at our kitchen table, who realized that buying our home for higher than fair market value was in their best interest. Otherwise their reputation would be severely tarnished in the community.

    They prepared the paperwork and we were able to buy a new home that did not have the same problems. They were then able to sell the property to someone who full well knew what was located beside them and was happy to buy the house.

    The hearing may be over but I am certain a lawyer would take this case on in a law suit, that could reflect very badly on city officials and the developer. Hopefully the developer steps up to the plate and does the right thing, otherwise if there was anything corrupt in this development, many people will be exposed.

    I am hopeful this will be resolved fairly for the couple.”

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