Neighbours ejected from meeting about unregulated parking lot mayor calls 'bloody place'
LONDON, ONT. -- Frustrated neighbours of an unregulated parking lot near Richmond Row were ejected from council chambers, after demanding the Civic Works Committee answer their questions.
As first revealed by CTV News, the unpaved and poorly-lit parking lot between John and Mill sreets was created by spreading gravel over the backyards of several rental properties.
Intended for tenants, many bar patrons in search of free parking frequently use the unregulated lot.
Neighbour Anna Maria Valastro told the Civic Works Committee that the lot and its adjacent rental properties fail to meet municipal property standards and have become a magnet for crime and disturbances in the area.
After her delegation spoke, Valastro and neighbour Ben Benedict refused to stop asking the committee to “answer our questions.”
After several warnings, committee chair Steve Lehman had both removed from council chambers.
But their concerns had been heard by committee members, including Mayor Ed Holder, who expressed his own frustration.
“Is there anything we can do today to clean this bloody place up? Because quite frankly, out of respect for the neighbourhood, and also for the sake of the cleanliness of the city, it’s right behind a public establishment, I think it’s in everyone’s interest that this be done.”
Chief municipal law enforcement officer, Orest Katolyk, committed to address the bylaw and property standard issues in the neighbourhood.
“We are going to be doing a proactive blitz, because we heard today about not only parking issues, but property standard issues, issues with debris.”
City hall is abandoning efforts to convert the lot into a municipally operated and enforced commercial lot, after failing to negotiate an agreement with property owner Jason Sims.
Last week Sims told CTV News, “They wanted us to pave the parking lot and put in some more lighting, and we are not going to spend all that money and then they are just going to change their mind.”
He sympathized with neighbours, but said the solution lies with city hall.
“The process has taken a very long time. We've signed an agreement and now for some reason - and they won't tell us why - they've changed their mind.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Lehman said more public input, earlier in the process, might have prevented many of the concerns.
“I think we’ve learned we need to be a little more cautious, and get public input before we allow a parking lot or take on a parking lot. Ask the neighbours around the area for their thoughts.”