A Renfrew Avenue resident is angry at what she sees as City council waffling on an illegal basement suite decision.
Lynda Davy, who lives across from 916 Renfrew, said Wednesday that council’s decision means the City will turn a blind eye to the illegal suite.
“What’s the point of us following protocol if City council won’t follow protocol?” said Davy, who operates a home day care.
A public hearing to rezone and legalize the suite Tuesday night drew a strong turnout of neighbours. At least 45 area residents signed a letter asking council to turn down the zoning request and have the suite removed.
They cited crime, drugs and parking problems as their main reasons. Several said two other houses on the street with suspected illegal suites have posed worse problems.
The owners of 916 Renfrew, Rizwan and Zarina Shafi, said they had one bad tenant who was evicted as soon as they heard complaints. They gave the neighbours a letter of apology.
A few other neighbours spoke favourably of the Shafis and agreed they took fast action.
Council voted against rezoning the property to permanently legalize their suite. Then Coun. John O’Fee put forward a motion to allow the couple to continue with the status quo — renting out the suite and the top floor of the house separately — as long as they have good tenants.
Councillors Pat Wallace and Nancy Bepple opposed the decision.
“I was absolutely astounded that this happened,” Wallace said Wednesday.
The Shafis bought the house five years ago and were told by the realtor the suite was legal. For a long time, they lived in the home and had family members in the suite.
They have since moved out. The ‘bad’ tenants moved in last November. Zarina Shafi said they were given their eviction notice in December and they moved out in January.
Since then, the basement has been vacant and just the top floor rented out to a couple with three children. Neighbours agreed they haven’t been a problem.
But there are two other houses on the street, suspected of having illegal suites, that have prompted calls to bylaws and the police. Neighbours felt there are too many suites on the residential street.
Mayor Peter Milobar and Coun. Tina Lange said Wednesday the decision council came up with is similar to one council made a few years ago involving a home in Aberdeen.
Lange said one bad tenant can happen to any landlord.
“We’ve decided not to act on the bylaw. We’re allowed to forgive a bylaw infraction. We do it every day.”
Milobar said if the rezoning had been granted, the suite would have been legal — and permanent.
Council’s decision puts the control of the situation in the neighbourhood’s hands. But any complaints to bylaws have to be valid.
City community development manager Randy Lambright: said council’s ruling treats the situation as though there had not been any complaints to bylaws.
If there are two complaints from neighbours, bylaws staff will have to respond, he said. Had the suite been rezoned, City staff would have inspected it to ensure it met the building code.
Zarina Shafi said Wednesday they will be extremely careful in screening future tenants.
“We’ll do our best to keep our neighbours happy.”