Floods Swim Upstream To Snare $151,000 Prize
When I learned the details of the epic battle Kevin Flood and his wife Anne-Marie Laniak recently waged against the City of Windsor hegemony, the classic 1966 rock song “I Fought The Law,” invaded my mind.
I prefer a delicious twist to the couplet, and it goes like this: “I Fought The Law, And The Law Lost.”
If you have the fortitude, resources and know-how of the Floods, you CAN fight City Hall. Unfortunately, precious few citizens have those attributes.
On August 26, 2016, the City of Windsor agreed, in a mediation session, to pay $151,000 to the Floods, culminating five years of excruciating red tape and legal wrangling.
The Floods filed suit against the city on November 28, 2014, alleging that the actions and inactions of City Hall planning and building department officials, dating back to mid-2011, caused the loss of a lucrative 20-year Ontario Power Authority (OPA) solar microFit contract at 357 Indian Road.
The Floods, mavens of west-end student housing, acquired the derelict duplex under power of sale in 2009, with the intention to renovate the building and install money-making solar panels on the roof.
Thus began a tortuous odyssey to gain approval from layers of City Hall politicians, swivel servants, legal beagles and subcommittees imitating three-toed sloths.
Essentially, the Floods became caught in a fierce political crossfire between the city and the Ambassador Bridge, which had purchased dozens of houses on and around Indian Road with a mind to demolish them and build a truck plaza.
The city balked, passing an interim control bylaw in 2007 that was extended, and eventually led to the designation of Sandwich as a Heritage District. The designation finally occurred in 2009, placing stringent requirements on how vacant houses needed to be restored, rather than demolished. When the Bridge appealed the designation to the Supreme Court, implementation was delayed until the appeal was dropped in August of 2012.
The heritage designation on ramshackle Indian Road residences is a major stretch in the first place, but since City Council could vote to exempt certain projects, the Floods made a gallant application to extensively renovate a simple duplex, add solar panels, and ultimately wade through a regulatory minefield.
A building permit application to change the façade was denied by City Council on September 19, 2011 because the plaintiffs would not agree to the demands of senior planners.
Thom Hunt, Director of Planning, demanded imitation cedar shakes, which he suggested could be purchased cheaper in Detroit. From Senior Planner Kevin Alexander came a dictate to raise the porch wall on each side by approximately 2.5 bricks and require two fancy oak doors.
Not wanting to lose some $225,000 in OPA solar revenue, the Floods decided to re-apply and give the planners everything they desired.
Kevin Flood submitted drawings on June 11, 2012 to the building department after serving notice to city officials that the deadline to start operations on the winding-down OPA program was December 8th of that year.
“The application did not move forward,” Flood contended in his statement of claim, noting the drawings sat in the building department for two and a half months.
He says Chief Building Official Lee Ann Doyle was on record as saying the timeline to get applications to City Council was four to six weeks. But, Doyle then prematurely demanded interior design drawings, which were exempt under Green Energy bylaws and later Heritage District rules. That took a month.
An agonizing year passed before the Heritage Committee, the Planning Advisory Committee and ultimately Council, on June 13, 2013, all approved the exterior drawings. Former Councillor Percy Hatfield asked that night why it had taken a year to process the application and received no good answer.