Toronto neighbourhood group opposes development, gets hit with legal fees

Click to play video: 'Neighbourhood group stuck with $10,000 legal bill after fighting developer'
Neighbourhood group stuck with $10,000 legal bill after fighting developer
WATCH: Members of a west Toronto neighbourhood association are being ordered to pay $10,000 after fighting a development project. As Sean O’Shea reports, the small group is refusing to back down in this David and Goliath battle – Feb 20, 2024

It was David and Goliath from the start: a multi-billion dollar company versus a fledgling neighbourhood group.

The large corporation wanted to push ahead with a 20-storey high-rise condo project on Toronto’s Bloor Street West.

The community volunteers opposed it, and asked regulators to stop the development from going ahead.

The grassroots group lost an appeal. And now, the lawyer for the developer is demanding $10,000 in fees, as ordered by an Ontario judge.

“The judge gave no reasons for that loss (the appeal) and then awarded them $10,000 in legal fees — they tried to go for $80,000,” said Cristina Costa, co-director of South Junction Triangle GROWs Neighbourhood Association.

The group represents about 180 residents and small business owners. It appealed a City of Toronto decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal over a development at 1423-1437 Bloor Street West.

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South Junction Triangle GROWs was concerned about what it called the “mistreatment and displacement of tenants and the 400 storeys of unaffordable, luxury investment condo properties proposed within a 0.5 kilometre radius in the Junction Triangle.”

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The project is backed by KingSett Capital, a private equity real estate investment business.

When the small neighbourhood group’s appeal was turned down, the developer’s lawyer obtained a court order on Nov. 7, 2023, in which Justice Shaun O’Brien of the Ontario Court of Justice ordered that the $10,000 was payable.

“It boggles the mind that a judge would require the group to pay,” said Patricia Johnson, a tenant affected by the development project.

The developer’s lawyer, Alan B. Dryer, wrote three members of the neighbourhood association on Jan. 25, demanding immediate payment.

“We hereby require South Junction Triangle GROWs Neighbourhood Association to pay this costs order in full within ten days of this date of this letter.”

Dryer’s letter goes on to warn that if the individuals do not pay, “we have been instructed to take the necessary proceedings with the Sheriff of the City of Toronto to enforce payment of this Court Order.”

Dryer did not respond to a call for comment from Global News prior to publication.

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At a rally outside the development site, members of the volunteer group and other supporters vowed to continue to fight.

“If you want the $10,000 you come and get it yourself here,” said organizer Gaetan Heroux, addressing the private equity company’s chief executive officer by name.

“Tell us when you’re coming, we’ll meet you,” Heroux added.

Costa, who is one of the named residents in the letter from Dryer, says the demand is intended to get residents not to speak up.

“It’s really symbolic to show us, hey, stop fighting us. Back down. But we’re not,” Costa told Global News in an interview.

But others at the rally acknowledge the risk of being forced to pay a developer’s legal fees could send a chill.

“We don’t have the funds to do that, we are concerned about where to go,” said Airei Dooh-Tousignant, a tenant at another apartment building slated for redevelopment.

“It is a deterrent to people; it scares people. That is their intention, they want to make the people protesting today examples…so they’ll be too afraid to fight it to keep their housing.”

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