Tuesday, May 06, 2003
‘Radar base’ no bargain for tenants

Article reprinted from the Northern Life.

As far back as there have been landlords to complain of slovenly tenants who fail to pay their rent on time, there have been disgruntled tenants to complain about the conditions they’re forced to live under.

Melody Lefebvre lives at the former Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Falconbridge. She is worried derelict old buildings pose serious safety risks.
Each party invariably feels they alone are the injured party, but the truth is, conflicts are rarely as cut-and-dried as they might first appear on the surface.

Take the case of tenants Shane and Melody Lefebvre.

Lured by the promise of low rent, the couple decided to move into Pine Ridge Developments, formerly Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Falconbridge on Radar Road in Hanmer.

When they first moved into the community about nine months ago, they thought it would be a good, safe place to raise their two children, Brett, 6, and Vanessa, 9.

That was before they discovered a couple of derelict old buildings on the site that, they felt, posed serious safety risks to the children of the community.

“There are probably more kids around here than there are adults,” Melody Lefebvre said.

“And they’re always out playing and riding their bikes...and they can get into those buildings no problem. They’re (the buildings) not boarded up or anything...well, you’ve seen them. It’s an extremely dangerous environment for kids and the safety of our kids is our
number one priority.”

The buildings to which she refers are the old CFB barracks and the former mess hall.

Nestled behind an abandoned and boarded up church, the barracks are indeed accessible to anyone with the curiosity to venture inside. There is no fence surrounding the building, the first floor windows, most of which are broken, are not boarded up, and a door on the west end of the building has been wrenched from its hinges. Shards of broken glass lay strewn about the ground.

Inside, on the stairs leading to the second floor, there is more broken glass, along with assorted other debris, including boards with rusty nails jutting out of them. A long shadowy corridor runs the length of the second floor. Large chunks of the ceiling have collapsed in several places and hang suspended like a row of guillotine blades waiting to fall. The walls of one room are covered with graffiti.

Pine Ridge Developments is registered under the name 1277937 Ontario Ltd., a numbered company owned by Dr. Lloyd Kerry of Hanmer.

Kerry purchased the property for about $1.9 million in 1988.

He said he wanted to tear the abandoned buildings down 15 years ago, but maintains municipal officials didn’t want them torn down because that would have meant a loss of tax revenue.

The property is currently valued at $15 million, Kerry said.

“Can you imagine?” he said. “And we get no services for the taxes we pay. I haven’t taken money out of the place for years. It’s a financial fiasco.”

Kerry, a retired widower who suffers from poor health, said he would walk away from the property tomorrow if someone offered him $2 million for it.

Getting back to the abandoned buildings, Kerry maintains hey were boarded up as recently as last year. Kerry blames vandals for the buildings’ current state of disrepair.

“Vandalism is the single most important problem that we have to deal with,” he said.

Lefebvre begs to differ. That’s complete freakin’ malarkey,” she said.

Former Pine Ridge Developments maintenance worker Jeff Kozey agrees with Lefebvre.

“I’ve never seen the barracks or the mess hall boarded up,” Kozey said. “Not in the two years that I worked there.”

He did, however, offer an opinion into why the buildings have never been torn down.

“All of the buildings have asbestos board behind the walls,” he said.

“And another thing – Mel’s (Melody) house is full of mould, and that’s a health hazard.”

The Lefebvres’ problems don’t end there. They’ve been served with an eviction notice from the property manager, allegedly for not paying their rent.

Lefebvre produces a wad of rent receipts dating back to July 2002.

“It’s harassment, plain and simple,” she said. “They’re doing this because I had the nerve to complain about conditions around here.”

Lefebvre said she tried calling a number of different government agencies, including the Property Standards Inspections office for the Greater City of Sudbury, but to no avail.

Northern Life contacted the Property Standards Inspections office and spoke to Gil Lefebvre (no relation) about the derelict buildings on the Pine Ridge Developments site.

He said his office would be sending a couple of inspectors out to visit the site in response to a property standards complaint made by a concerned citizen, and, if need be, they would take appropriate action.

According to Melody Lefebvre, city inspectors arrived at Pine Ridge Developments April 25, inspected the derelict buildings, and immediately set about boarding them up.

Property Standards Inspection officer Dave Rouse said Pine Ridge Developments had been visited and the appropriate measures were being taken to deal with the issue.