Don’t clean weeds and butts? You pay! (DATE DE PARUTION 4 SEPTEMBRE 2009)

By Jessica Murphy on June 18, 2009

Montreal merchants say they’re being fined under the cleanliness bylaws while the City remains in disrepair.

Bill Vasilios Karidogiannis, a property owner on Avenue du Parc, is the recipient of one of those fines - $260 for not maintaining the weeds around a city tree. The weeds in front of his property had grown higher then the 20 centimeters allowed under a Plateau bylaw.

“It means I need to come out everyday and measure them,” he said.

In the meantime, he said, his borough had let his street go to pot.

“It looks very Third World here. And nobody’s cut their weeds except me. Some (weeds) are literally chest high,” he told The Metropolitain two weeks ago.

Then last Thursday, borough workers cleaned the street - but not before the inspectors ticketed a series of merchants a day earlier.

“They keep telling me it’s not a tax grab, but, you know, it’s an indirect tax,” Karidogiannis said.

“There’s no give and take, there’s just take, take, take.”

Since 2005, Montreal boroughs have adopted bylaws requiring property owners to maintain the public property in front of their buildings up to the sidewalk.

There are currently 50 different bylaws across City boroughs.

dont-clean-weeds.jpgSome merchants say this has led   to confusion, though all the boroughs sent out information packets   to property owners or merchant associations. The City is currently creating a uniform series of laws for all its 19 boroughs.

In 2007, 7124 fines were given citywide for infractions of the cleanliness bylaws. In the Ville Marie borough, 2700 fines were distributed in six months, bringing in a potential revenue of $1 million. Merchants on the Plateau received 1940 fines totaling $223,420 in potential revenues.

The Montreal municipal court does not keep statistics on the number of tickets currently being contested under the cleanliness bylaws.

Zissis Fotopoulos, on the executive committee of the Park Avenue Merchants Association, agrees with Karidogiannis that the bylaws are a mistake.

“We think it’s not right,” he said. “They made a mistake when they passed it.”

He’s trying to organize the street’s property owners to contest the tickets as a group.

While he lauds the borough workers for last week’s cleanup, he said he wishes they would do it more often.

“I know one thing: it looks more beautiful when (the weeds) are cut,” he said.

In Ville Marie, property owners are expressing their own frustration at the borough’s bylaws, some of the strictest in Montreal.

They require landlords to install ashtrays at building entrances. The landlords have to purchase the ashtrays, which cost about $100 and up.

Owners also have the option of placing a no-smoking sign on their building.

Maggie Garafano manages a series of buildings on Peel Street, Ste-Catherine Street and on Phillips Square. She’s received over $4000 in fines for non compliance with the ashtray legislation.

The fines were linked to two businesses renting in her building. The first, a restaurant, had ashtrays on all the tables of its terrace, but not a regulation one attached to the building’s wall.

The second was a cafe that didn’t allow smoking even outside and had prominent no smoking signs on its tables, but not a regulation no smoking sign on the building’s wall.

“(The laws) don’t cover restaurant patrons, it’s for the people that are walking by,” Garafano said. “It’s not my responsibility.”

She has since bought and installed the ashtrays though she’s contesting the fines.

“These ashtrays are my worst nightmare,” she said. “People stuff their garbage in there.”

Street people also break into them to steal the remnants of cigarettes, leaving her to replace the broken ashtrays.

Garafano said she’s left wondering why there are no garbage cans on the stretch of Peel near her properties and why the snow removal in the winter is dismal.

“Don’t we pay enough taxes?”

A report released by the City notes a 48 per cent increase in fines in 2007.

Meanwhile, Karidogiannis is contesting his tickets and taking on the borough in his blog, Why Montreal?

“My question is this: I pay taxes - $6000 a year just for the building,” said Karidogiannis. “I pay taxes to the city (in many ways). If you add it all up it comes to about $1000 a month. Where does that go if we’re obligated to do blue-collar work? Cut my taxes and I’ll clean. I’ll even fill the potholes up.”


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