City moves to expropriate 3 businesses on Wharncliffe Road
Report coming to council says properties are needed to widen Wharncliffe between Springbank and Becher
Stephen Babbar understands that expropriation is a power the government can wield.
He also sees the need for the city to address the traffic congestion he's watched grow worse in each of the 25 years he's been doing business on Wharncliffe Road South, near Horton Street.
But he still feels uneasy watching the city move toward expropriating his Aerus Electrolux store at 71 Wharncliffe Rd. S.
"If that business goes, I'm in trouble," said Babbar. "My main concern is my business, that's what pays my bills. I'm just a small business guy. I'm concerned if my business doesn't work out with this move, what will I do?"
Aerus Electrolux is one of three adjacent properties on the west side of Wharncliffe that city staff say they need as part of a plan to widen the busy road between Beecher Street and Springbank Drive.
Babbar's store is wedged between two other business, also slated for full expropriation.
To the south (No. 73) is European Upholstery, a business that has been operating in London since the 1960s.
To the north is a Money Mart at No. 69 Wharncliffe.
A staff report coming to council Tuesday says the city has only been able to close deals on four of the 11 properties they need to widen Wharncliffe.
The report seeks council support to move ahead with full expropriation on the properties, or in some cases small slices of them.
Among the properties is 100 Stanley St., owned by 75-year-old Nan Finlayson, who has vowed to fight to keep her house.
Although Babbar says it's possible that his business could move and survive, he fears it will come at considerable cost.
He's been in business on the corner for 25 years, first working as an Electrolux employee at a storefront location across the street at 80 Wharncliffe. He managed to buy the franchise in 2004, then in 2010 was able to buy his current location to operate his business and rent out two apartments in the building.
He also owns a second Aerus franchise in Kitchener.
Some talks with the city
Babbar has had preliminary discussions with city officials about the property's value, and has paid to have an appraisal. He doesn't want to talk about the numbers, but says so far there's a sizeable gap in the two valuations.
The city suggested Babbar look for another storefront location, but he says finding something comparable won't be easy. He doesn't want to move to a neighbourhood where similar businesses are established. Finding a property with two residential rental units is also a tall order.
Even staying near the corner of Wharncliffe and Horton comes with risks, Babbar said. The road widening project could last four years and that work could keep customers away.
At the same time, his customers know where he is. He fears moving, even if he can find a suitable location, will cost him customers.
For now, Babbar said he's waiting for the process to play out while he hopes for fair treatment from the city.
"I have a lawyer and he's on it," said Babbar.
City officials have said they need to acquire the properties in early 2020 to keep the project on schedule.
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