Alleged clubhouse arsonist owns $1.6M home three doors down from golf course

Michael Peter Belanger is charged with one count of arson causing property damage following a clubhouse fire. According to documents obtained by CBC News, he owns a home three doors down from River Road Golf Course, the proposed site for a winter homelessness shelter.

River Road Golf Course was proposed site for city's Indigenous-led homeless shelter

The clubhouse of the River Road golf course sustained $1-million in damage after a fire that police say was deliberately set. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

The city employee charged with arson following a suspicious fire at the proposed site of an Indigenous-led homeless shelter owns a home nearby that he's trying to sell, according to records obtained by CBC News. 

Michael Peter Belanger, 54, is charged with one count of arson causing property damage. He is a supervisor in the City of London's fleet services department and has been suspended with pay, city officials say. 

Property tax records show that Belanger has been the listed owner of 2255 River Road since 2017. The home is three doors down from the River Road Golf Course, where a fire in the clubhouse caused an estimated $1-million in damage on Nov. 7.

The clubhouse was an integral part of a plan to give homes to up to 30 Indigenous Londoners experiencing homelessness. The shelter was to be run by Atlohsa Family Healing Services, which is now looking for alternative locations. 

The River Road Golf Course shelter location, on the outskirts of London, was opposed by some neighbours. The plan still requires a final green-light from city councillors, who are scheduled to decide on Tuesday. 

Documents show the home at 2255 River Road was listed for $1.8-million in September but was taken off the market, only to be put back on the market at $1.6 million on Oct. 1. There is no 'For Sale' sign on the property, just a boulder announcing "The Belanger's Mike and Susie." (sic)

The home at 2255 River Road is listed as belonging to Michael Peter Belanger. He has been charged with arson in relation to a fire at the River Road Golf Course clubhouse. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

The real estate listing boasts of "country living in the city" on a large plot of "river front property." The listing agent is Susie Dietrich. 

The city released its plan to use the golf course as a winter homeless shelter on Oct. 27. Another municipal course, Fanshawe Golf Course, is proposed for similar use. 

A woman who answered the door at 2255 River Road on Monday asked a reporter to leave the property. She then released a large dog as the reporter was leaving. 

Neighbours also didn't want to speak, with several saying they were shocked at news of the arrest. 

'Act of violence'

In an email sent to city staff Monday, deputy city manager Lynne Livingstone called news of the arrest "difficult" and asked city employees not to speak to the media.

"It is an act of violence that has put some of London's most vulnerable people at greater risk by compromising the temporary Indigenous-led winter shelter proposed for this site," Livingstone said in a statement. 

London Mayor Ed Holder called the fire at the golf course "senseless violence." He said city officials are meeting with Atlohsa staff to find somewhere for the Indigenous shelter to set up. 

"There are a number of options that are being reviewed today, and it's my hope that in the relatively near future, we're going to be able to announce some specifics around what those options can be," Holder said.

With files from Amanda Margison