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EXCLUSIVE: Owner of old hospital takes city to court over 'illegal' bylaw

Court battle latest chapter in saga of former downtown hospital sites; City Hall accused of 'exercising authority it does not have' by demanding 24/7 security and $2M insurance

The owner of the former General and Plummer hospital sites is looking to the courts to stop the City of Sault Ste. Marie from enforcing an “illegal” part of its own property standards bylaw at the waterfront properties.   

Court documents obtained by SooToday reveal that Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc. filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on May 2, requesting an injunction to prevent the enforcement of provisions within the bylaw regarding vacant, demolished and damaged buildings. 

The real estate developer is also seeking a declaration from the City of Sault Ste. Marie that the portion of its property standards bylaw that’s being called into question is “vague, illegal and unenforceable.” 

A court hearing on the matter is slated for July 20. 

According to court documents, Leisure Meadows was slapped with two bylaw notices — one for 941 Queen Street East and one for 995 Queen Street East — in late-November of last year. 

Both notices stated that neither the former general hospital nor the former Plummer renal unit conformed to the city’s property standards bylaw on the grounds they were being “accessed by unauthorized entry despite responding efforts by the property manager to secure it.” 

The notices ordered Leisure Meadows to provide security personnel to monitor the building — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and to keep records. The company was also ordered to show the city proof it had obtained no less than $2 million worth of liability insurance for each building. 

The pair of notices advised the company that the City of Sault Ste. Marie “may correct such violations at the expense of the owner” if the violations weren’t remedied by the December 16, 2022 deadline.

As SooToday reported earlier this week, Leisure Meadows has hired Winmar property restoration to secure the building and cover up openings and busted windows, as ordered by the city.

Amendments made to the city’s property standards bylaw in 2021 state that provisions surrounding vacant buildings are authorized under sections of both the Building Code Act and Municipal Act. 

But Leisure Meadows doesn’t believe that’s the case. 

In its court application, the company claims the Building Code Act contains no provisions for vacant buildings, let alone obtaining “insurance, monitoring or security personnel.”

It also takes issue with a provision permitting the city to enter and secure a building “against unauthorized entry without prior notice or order.” The company claims the city’s provision goes against the Building Code Act, which provides for a process to be followed where a building has to be deemed unsafe by an inspector. 

Leisure Meadows goes on to claim that a provision within the 2021 amendments to the city's property standards bylaw allowing for a vacant building to be demolished is not within the power of the municipality. 

To sum it up, the developer argues the municipality is “exercising authority it does not have” by enforcing its “illegal” provisions dealing with vacant buildings.

Leisure Meadows also believes the bylaw provisions dealing with vacant buildings should be declared “void for uncertainty” because the city’s definition of vacant buildings is “vague,” and the requirements do not distinguish between “permissible and impermissible conduct and do not sufficiently delineate or limit enforcement discretion.”

A forthcoming affidavit from Italo Ferrari, the general manager and public face of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., is expected to be used as evidence during the court hearing later this summer.

The city has yet to file a written response to the court application.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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