Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More Windsor Tales

It just does not get any better than this: a coffee, a bagel and reading more stories about Windsor from the BLOGMEISTER.


Whew, Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG is now back online. Although he is not writing much these days.

But nothing from Councillor Postma since June!


Ahhhhh, no more being held at ransom by greedy Government workers for important Government services.

Thank goodness we will have private enterprise running them for us....WRONG

Ooooops, if you blinked, you may have missed this miniscule Star story:
  • "Driving examiners seeing latest offer

    Ontario's striking driving examiners are reviewing the latest offer from their employer aimed at ending a strike that began 11 weeks ago.

    A spokesman for the union representing the nearly 600 striking examiners said he would not discuss the offer while it was being considered by members.

    Employees at the province's 56 full-time and 38 part-time DriveTest locations, where would-be drivers take written and road tests in order to obtain their licences, have been without a collective agreement since March 1. They began their strike Aug. 24 to fight for higher wages, more sick days, less overtime and job security."


I am having trouble understanding why the Star brought up the story about the Farhi lands. Not just once, but twice recently. Something must be going on but what?

Here's a history of the property as reported. Try and see if you can figure it all out.

  • 11-07-2006
    Arena site 'perfect': Council swaps riverfront land for $1.5M and 40 acres off Lauzon Road

    With a week to go before the election, city council left its final mark Monday with the approval of a $47.9 million arena on 40 acres of land off Lauzon Road.

    The east-end site will be part of a $3.5-million land swap with London developer Shmuel Farhi, who owns the parcel of vacant land east of the Lear plant and sandwiched between Lauzon Road and Little River.

    In exchange, the city will give Farhi a 1.1-acre parcel it owns next to the Art Gallery of Windsor, overlooking Riverside Drive, which was appraised at roughly $2 million, plus $1.5 million in cash.

    Farhi has asked the city to hold on to the cash, which he intends to use as a credit for the future costs of developing the land. He will have a year to do that and if the credit is not used, the city will pay him in cash.

    Mayor Eddie Francis described Farhi as the man responsible for the revitalization of downtown London and the owner of about "70 per cent" of the land in that city's core. His plans for the Riverside Drive land will likely include condominiums, Francis said.

    "He's anxious about development. He's got a couple of ideas already in mind," Francis said. "He called up this afternoon indicating he's already looking at potential tenants."

Nothing here about a 3 year wait.

It seems the expectation was that something would happen within a year.

  • 11-08-2006
    Developer vows first class

    Windsor's newest investor describes himself as a businessman with a big heart and deep pockets.

    Shmuel Farhi, the man who played a central role in the city's ability to acquire a 40-acre parcel of land off Lauzon Road for its new arena complex, says the $3.5-million land swap will be the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

    Farhi gets 1.1 acres of prime waterfront land, west of the Art Gallery of Windsor, in exchange for 40 acres next to the Lear plant. He will also receive $1.5 million in cash, to be held by the city for up to one year for use in future developments.

    Farhi said he will use the year to line up potential buyers for a "first-class" condominium development overlooking Windsor's waterfront, with retail on the ground floor."

Again, talk was about a year with no mention of 3 years or not "owning" the property. It was a land "swap" after all.

  • 01-16-2007
    Costs mount for site swap

    The city will have to pay up to $200,000 to remove a foundation left behind from an old brewery on the Riverside Drive site that is part of a land swap for the new arena development.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said the old foundation was located on part of the site where the current Art Gallery of Windsor sits and next to an empty parcel of land the city will give to a London developer in exchange for land on the east end of the city for a new arena. "What happened was they just dumped dirt on top of it to close the hole."

    Francis said the city is obliged to hand over "a clean site" to Shmuel Farhi, the developer who will get the prime waterfront parcel, plus $1.5 million in cash, for land next to the Lear plant off Lauzon Road, where the city will build its new 6,500-seat arena.

    Francis said the estimated cost to remove the material is between $150,000 and $200,000. "Obviously the cost will be applied to the project budget."

Were the lost taxes added to the project budget too? Nothing here about the remedial costs being equal to the costs of the taxes.

It is interesting. Why was the city "obliged?" Why did the City have to bear the risk and not the Purchaser. Caveat Emptor did not apply in this case or was this poor negotiating again on the City's part?. Was the City aware of what was underground before the sale? If so, why didn't they clean it up as they will have to do now at Wickes site near where the East End arena is located?

  • 01-30-2007
    Developer gets 3 years to complete land swap

    London developer Schmuel Farhi will wait three years before he officially takes ownership of the city's Riverside Drive property that was part of a land swap deal for the new city arena, Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday.

    Farhi will have up to three years to take ownership of the property, which means the removal of the contaminated soil at the city's expense won't have to take place right away, Francis said.

    Farhi has agreed to reduce the city's cost in the transaction by $100,000. The deal involves swapping land -- the Riverside Drive property next to the Art Gallery of Windsor for a multi-acre parcel next to the Lear plant for the new arena -- plus $1.4 million to Farhi.

    The city will be required to remove the debris that's underground, which includes footings left behind from an old brewery, when Farhi is ready to develop the property. Francis said he's "absolutely" sure Farhi will eventually do something with the land. "Have you met Mr. Farhi?" he said, referring to Farhi's numerous property developments across Ontario."

I wonder how much more we have to pay to remove the contaminants now compared with 2007

What is really curious is a story in the Star in April 2007 written by Gord Henderson. Co-incidentally, as the Star reported in 2009, the deal for the downtown lands "did not close until April 2007:"

  • "$110-million campus envisioned for city core; U of W engineering building would attract 1,500 students downtown

    It's far from a done deal, but the University of Windsor and city hall are in advanced discussions with the province on a proposal that could result in a $110-million state-of-the-art engineering campus with more than 1,500 students being located downtown.

    Informed sources have confirmed that the university, which originally intended to build Phase 1 of its new engineering building on the northeast corner of Sunset and Wyandotte at a cost of $53 million, has instead presented a business case to the province to develop the entire facility on city-owned land south of the Art Gallery of Windsor.

    The sources say time is of the essence and a deal will come together in a matter of weeks or this unique opportunity will be lost forever."

My sources had told me previously as I had BLOGGED that the plans showed student housing at the east end of the project.

The Engineering complex idea was turned down by the University Board in January, 2008.

  • 10-26-2009
    Farhi property won't be taxed until 2010

    The city remains the owner of prime property at Riverside Drive West and Bruce Avenue more than three years after it struck an agreement to give the land to London investor Shmuel Farhi as part of the WFCU land deal, according to land registry documents.

    Farhi will not pay property tax on the 1.75-acre downtown site, valued at about $2 million, until at least April 2010 under an agreement with the city.

    He gained the rights to the property as part of a 2006 agreement that included the purchase of 40 acres on the city's east end from him for $4 million to make way for the $71-million WFCU Centre.

    The deal did not close until April 2007, giving Farhi three years from that date before he must take possession of the property and start paying $30,000 to $35,000 in annual taxes to the city.

    "Right now, no taxes are being paid on it because he doesn't own it," said Mark Nazar-ewich, legal counsel for the city.

    Old concrete foundations on the riverfront property are to be ripped up at the city's expense as part of the deal before Farhi takes possession.

    Farhi was also expected to bring forward development plans for the site...

    Farhi said he believes he is under no obligation to present anything to the city in terms of plans for the site. But if the agreement requires him to take over the property in April and start paying taxes, that's fine, he said.

    "Whatever the agreement calls for, that's what's going to happen."

    November 5, 2009

    Farhi property won't be taxed until 2010

    A London investor has been able to avoid paying taxes for three years on a prime piece of downtown property because of a "taxation delay" negotiated with the city as part of a land swap for the east end arena site.

    As part of the 2006 WFCU deal, Shmuel Farhi does not have to pay property taxes to the city until next spring on a 1.75-acre site he acquired from the city at Riverside Drive West and Bruce Avenue, just west of the art gallery.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday the "taxation delay" was granted in exchange for the city not being required to immediately remediate the site at the time of the land exchange that led to Windsor's new arena on former Farhi land on the east side.

    City solicitor George Wilkki said the site of the former interim casino and a brewery before that harbours a "tremendous amount of concrete" from former foundations and footings. Farhi had no development plans for the site at the time, and the clean backfill alone, after remediation, would have cost city taxpayers about three years worth of taxes, Wilkki told council following a question from Coun. Alan Halberstadt.

    Francis said the city will remove those foundations at the time that future development occurs but that it made little sense to make such an investment before a plan is in place.

    Farhi is expected to take ownership of the land, valued at about $2 million, in the new year and begin paying municipal taxes.

    There is no word yet on what might be built there, although it is in the area of a proposed downtown canal project that council has not yet formally debated."

As Eh-Channel News told us, there is the obvious need for more parking there so guess who could sell the City more land in our "new downtown" area where we we were told by the Star recently that the area is booming. There goes the price of the land sky-rocketing upward!

  • "Parking Woes Growing Concern for WFCU goers

    Big need for more spaces at popular arena."

The cleanup costs years ago were said to be around $200K so how can Mr. Wilkki say that it "have cost city taxpayers about three years worth of taxes" when we are told the taxes are around $35K. In any event, the City did NOT get any taxes so we lost out on cleanup costs and taxes too

Edgar tells us that "Farhi had no development plans for the site at the time" yet that is not what the Star stories said "at the time."

He also says that

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday the "taxation delay" was granted in exchange for the city not being required to immediately remediate the site at the time of the land exchange that led to Windsor's new arena on former Farhi land on the east side."

That makes no sense at all. We gave up tax money when we are going to have to clean up the site anyway. We lost out due to Eddie's poor negotiating!


Mayoral Know It All

It should be pretty clear by now what is wrong with our City: Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis.

His problem is simple. He thinks he knows everything and won't listen to his own professionals. Oh we saw that in its clearest form with the near riot and the almost immediate leaving of the CAO. Want another example. Take the problems on Pelissier and Edgar's mind's eye vision for the street:

  • "Closing Pelissier Street a safety risk: report

    Closing a portion of Windsor's downtown Pelissier Street permanently to traffic would jeopardize security, a new report says.

    Closing this stretch of Pelissier Street in downtown Windsor would jeopardize safety by decreasing what a new report calls 'natural surveillance.'

    Traffic provides "natural surveillance" by drivers and passengers, Barry Horrobin, the city's director of planning, said in his report, which he presented to the Windsor Police Services Board meeting Thursday night.

    Without that surveillance, vandalism, break-ins, drug transactions and other problems are more to likely to happen, Horrobin said.

    Pelissier Street is a major concern for Mayor Eddie Francis. After a deadly shooting there on Sept. 27, Francis proposed turning a stretch of the street near the corner of Wyandotte Street into a pedestrian mall to quell violence."

Thank goodness I saw this on CBC Windsor since the Star did not report it. Did that end the matter? Hardly:

  • "On Thursday night, Francis reiterated his support for closing the street, saying "it can be done."

    "It's just a matter of ensuring that the will's there," he said.

    Francis plans to meet with the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association and city planners to discuss a possible closure.

    Those groups agree that a seasonal or periodic temporary street closure might be beneficial, but oppose closing the street permanently."

So now we have to waste time and effort on something that makes no sense because that would mean otherwise that Edgar was wrong.

In other words, nothing will be done until the next crisis.