Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson outlined a new hardline stance on property owners who let their buildings decay, and said city staff and councillors won't be intimidated by threats of legal action against them.
The mayor's comments come after a lawyer representing the Claude Lauzon Group sent letters to councillors Mathieu Fleury and Peter Hume, threatening to file a defamation lawsuit over remarks they've made about a run-down former school building at 287 Cumberland St.
'Let me be very clear, the threat of legal action against me or any of my Council colleagues will not work. We will not be intimidated by such actions.'—Mayor Jim Watson, in a Mar. 7 letter to the Claude Lauzon Group
In the letter to Fleury, a lawyer for the property owner said statements Fleury made to CBC Ottawa and Le Droit concerning the lack of maintenance of the property were made "in bad faith and maliciously, with the intent to harm."
Mayor Watson, speaking alongside Fleury and Hume in front of two other Claude Lauzon Group properties — 84 and 86 Beechwood Ave. — the city has identified as "eyesores" said the city won't be cowed.
"Legal intimidation is not an acceptable alternative for keeping properties in good repair," said Watson.
In a written response to the property owner issued today, Watson said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the threats.
"Let me be very clear, the threat of legal action against me or any of my Council colleagues will not work. We will not be intimidated by such actions," he wrote.
Mayor singles out 7 properties
Watson then listed a number of the company's properties he said were in poor condition and were considered eyesores in the community, including 287 Cumberland St. and 84 and 86 Beechwood Ave.
Also on the mayor's list of eyesores were 269-275 King Edward Ave., 277-279 King Edward Ave., 143 Murray St. and 207-209 Murray St.
Watson outlined a list of requirements for properties, including that they have woodwork painted, shingles repaired, broken windows replaced promptly, exterior cladding or brick work in good repair and debris and garbage collected.
Derelict properties are not only an eyesore for the city, they also affect the property values of nearby homes, said Watson.
Residents in New Edinburgh CBC spoke with said they were encouraged by the city's plans.
"Awesome. Thank God." said New Edinburgh resident Dara Lithwick. "Any step in that direction...very much appreciated."