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Expropriating Barton Street properties too 'heavy handed': opponents

Sam Merulla gave “public notice” last week that he wants to expropriate derelict properties along Barton Street and build affordable housing there. But his two challengers in the Ward 4 election race say that might be a little heavy handed.
Coun. Sam Merulla says if re-elected, he'll pursue expropriating derelict properties on Barton Street and turning them into affordable housing. His two challengers aren't so sure. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Sam Merulla gave “public notice” this month that he wants to expropriate derelict properties along Barton Street and build affordable housing there. But his two challengers in the Ward 4 election race say that might be a little heavy handed.

The incumbent councillor said at a general issues committee meeting that he’s tired of absentee landlords letting their properties deteriorate. Merulla led a city expropriation of the City Motor Hotel, a notorious motel in his ward that is now vacant land awaiting development. If reelected, he'd like to do the same.

“We did the same action with City Motor,” he said. “It worked well there. I trust it’ll work again.”

Sam Merulla is the incumbent councillor for Hamilton's Ward 4. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Merulla’s election challengers, Lorna Moreau and Tina Whalen, said they’d prefer to exhaust all other options first.

“There are other issues (to address) before we get to that,” said Moreau, a former member of the Crown Point Community Planning Team, of expropriation.

But Moreau, who was at city hall to hear the Barton-Kenilworth Commercial Corridors Study that sparked Merulla’s comments, agrees that change needs to happen. She wishes the city would have done more sooner.

“To me, a lot of things could have happened a long time ago.”

Whalen, who lives and operates a business on Kenilworth Avenue, also sees the expropriation notion as heavy handed.

“It’s the ultimate black and white,” she said, adding that she agrees with the need for affordable housing.

Whalen, 74, is a long-time educator and translator who founded a Montessori school in Oakville. Her husband, David, owns Available Real Estate. She owns an Italian take-out service. She also distributed vapour recovery and soil remediation equipment, which led her to a 2005 trade mission to China.

Moreau, who describes her age as “seventyish,” is an environmental watchdog known for her work protesting emissions from Hamilton’s industrial area. A retired hair stylist, she has also been involved in east-end community organizations such as the Crown Point Community Planning Team.

Merulla, 47, was first elected to city council in 2000. His background includes acting as executive senior advisor to a Hamilton East MPP and critic for environment and community and social services, and advisor to the official opposition whip. 

He sits on, among other committees, the advisory committee for persons with disabilities, the HECFI board, the Hamilton Utilities Corporation joint advisory board, the veterans advisory committee and the steel committee.

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