The owner of an illegal boarding house at 29 Victoria St. has appealed city council’s decision to disallow that use for his property to the Ontario Municipal Board.
During a recent council meeting and again at a community safety meeting at Heritage United Church last week, neighbours complained about regular instances of fighting, swearing, littering, vandalism and verbal abuse involving tenants of the lodging house owned by landlord Peter Jovanovich.
“I have lost count of the number of times police have come to that building,” Diana Terpstra said. “The negative effect (that house) has had on our community is extreme.”
Dennis Williams’ Park Avenue home backs onto the lodging house. He said tenants throw beer bottles, fast food wrappers and rocks into his backyard from a rooftop patio.
“I cannot use my backyard much anymore, I keep my kids inside,” Williams said. “I know (Jovanovich) wants to make money off the house, but why should the rest of us suffer?”
Residents complained that Jovanovich is an “absentee landlord” who doesn’t respond to their concerns. They worry that alleged criminal activity at the lodging house lowers property values.
During a presentation to council, Jovanovich promised to build fencing to limit interactions between tenants and neighbours, as well as introduce a stricter screening process for tenants and a full-time, live-in caretaker to deal with complaints.
After neighbours complained to the city, inspectors found that Jovanovich had not obtained a lodging house license for the former St. Leonard’s group home.
Council later decided that the property could no longer be a lodging house. It is that decision Jovanovich has appealed to the OMB.
Brantford police crime prevention officer Andrea Cooper told residents that officers had only filed five incident reports from the address during the past year. That flies in the face of anecdotal evidence that police visit multiple times each week.
But Cooper said that if a neighbour calls police because of a fight, but the participants do not wish to lay charges, the incident won’t show up in police statistics.
K.C. Pongracz, a development planner with the city, acknowledged that residents are frustrated by what they see as a lack of action.
“(Fines for bylaw infractions) aren’t achieving the results the neighbourhood wants,” Pongracz said.
Ward 5 councillors Marguerite Ceschi-Smith and David Neumann encouraged residents to register for participant status with the OMB so that their concerns can be heard. The city will defend council’s decision based on zoning and land use, not crime and neighbourhood safety arguments.
Brantford Neighbourhood Alliance chair Steve Boudreau, who moderated last week’s community safety meeting, said residents must band together and turn frustration into action to help police and city staff solve the problem.
“The greatest deterrent against crime in any neighbourhood is a fully engaged community,” Boudreau said.
The lodging house will remain in operation pending the outcome of the OMB hearing, which will be held at Brantford city hall. The hearing’s start date has yet to be determined.