City tells developer to shut down illegal parking lot

Wilson Blanchard, a well-known Hamilton developer has been served a bylaw violation notice after opening a parking lot on the site of a recently demolished downtown building.

New lot at 20 Jackson Street West violates lot bylaw, the city says

Wilson Blanchard is operating an illegal parking lot on the site of a recently demolished building downtown, the city says. (Adam Carter/CBC)

A well-known Hamilton developer has been served a violation notice by city staff after opening a parking lot on the site of a recently demolished downtown building.

The notice issued to Wilson Blanchard is to stop using the parking lot the company recently started operating at 20 Jackson Street West, near the corner of James Street South. The issue was first brought to the city's attention by Raise the Hammer editor Ryan McGreal.

The rubble of the building that once stood at 20 Jackson Street West. (Adam Carter/CBC)

"I can confirm that enforcement is underway and that there is a violation under the bylaw(s)," Coun. Jason Farr told CBC Hamilton in an email. 

The notice gives the company until the end of the month to comply, but city staff say because of holidays, a re-inspection of the site won't occur until the new year.

The three-storey building on that site once housed the Urban Café, and was demolished over the fall. Once crews cleared the debris, parking lot signs went up — even though the city imposed a moratorium on demolishing buildings and turning them into parking lots over a decade ago.

Representatives from Wilson Blanchard could not be reached for comment.  A possible explanation is there is a bylaw provision that a new lot can be erected as long the same owner has a need for additional building parking within 300 metres of the lot.

Wilson Blanchard owns two other buildings on the same block as 20 Jackson Street West.

Raise the Hammer writer Nicholas Kevlahan says the city shouldn't buy that argument. He says he believes the buildings do not require new parking — rather that the demolition of the three-storey office reduces the need for parking.

This is the second time Blanchard and the city has found themselves at odds this week. Hamilton city council halted the demolition of a historic row of buildings next to Gore Park on Wednesday by suddenly designating them as heritage properties.

That means the developer will have to reapply for the permits all over again, this time following the city's rules when it comes to heritage properties.

Blanchard told CBC Hamilton this month that the buildings are crumbling and beyond repair. "The only part (of the buildings) that will be maintained, if it is maintained, is the facades," he said. 

The buildings are in such poor shape, he said, that "we have nothing to attach to the facade right now."

Blanchard and his partners have announced plans for a multi-use development that includes retail and condos.

With files from Samantha Craggs

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