Neglected, orphaned and taxed private park, report says

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The fact that a 106-year-old neglected private park on Riverside Drive doesn’t belong to anyone else could be the key to solving the flood nightmares it has brought to its next door neighbor.

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A new administrative report specifies who owns the city’s four private riverside parks, who has legal easements to use them and whether the parks are subject to property taxes. It was produced at the request of Ward 6 Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac, who explained Wednesday that she hoped the report would address a specific “serious concern” – surface flooding in one of the parks, a scrubby strip of land 15 feet wide at the foot from Jefferson Boulevard called Jefferson Private Park.

“The report was necessary for me to make sure we could move forward logically as a municipality,” she said, explaining that what she thinks will eventually happen is that the city appropriates the unpaid taxes and solves the flooding problems or sells to one of the adjoining owners.

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To the west is the RCMP detachment. To the east is the Dunn property, which has been submerged by water that has rushed from the small park in recent years as river levels hit record highs. It got so bad that the Dunn family paid to have an expensive steel protective wall installed on the park property last year when they replaced the protective wall in front of their own property. The RCMP also have a breakwater.

“We paid for this wall because we had to do it, the water was rising and pouring in,” Margaret Dunn said Wednesday, recounting the efforts she and her family have made to find the owners of the park in the hope of resolving the problem. As it turned out, residents of the early blocks of Jefferson had easements to use the property but did not own it.

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Jefferson Private Park, according to the report, is an orphan and has become subject to property taxes that no one pays. Dunn expressed hope that his family can eventually buy the park and take care of it to avoid further problems.

A private strip of land, called Jackson Private Park, adjacent to the RCMP station at Jefferson Blvd., and Riverside Drive East, is pictured on Wednesday April 22, 2020.
A private strip of land, called Jackson Private Park, adjacent to the RCMP station at Jefferson Blvd., and Riverside Drive East, is pictured on Wednesday April 22, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

For a private park not to be taxed, this “common land” must be “owned by two or more people, each also owning residential land in the community,” the report said, citing the provincial valuation law. . A search at the Land Registry Office revealed that when the land was registered in 1918 (it was created four years earlier) the registered owners were Vincent Daugharty, Charles Scott, and Edward C. Kenning. So the staff went to look for any records of other properties currently owned by these three people in Windsor. They found nothing.

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“I guess they’re not alive anymore – that was over 100 years ago,” said the city’s deputy lawyer Wira Vendrasco, who wrote the report. He explains that when the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation discovered the ownership situation, it changed the status of the park so that it is subject to property taxes. It’s unclear how much it will be taxed and how far back the taxes go, although Vendrasco said she didn’t expect it to go beyond 1998 when new regulations came out.

“The property taxes for this property are currently overdue,” the report said. “If this situation persists, this property will be registered for tax arrears and will be processed through the tax arrears procedure under the Municipalities Act.”

This means it could be taken back by the city and sold for unpaid taxes. This process takes several years, leaving the possibility for all potential heirs to intervene. Gignac hopes the result will be that the park has an owner who can take over the property.

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A sign warning that the private park is for owners and their guests only is pictured in the Rendezvous Shores subdivision on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
A sign warning that the private park is for owners and their guests only is pictured in the Rendezvous Shores subdivision on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Vendrasco did not know whether a change in ownership of the park would prevent right-holders from accessing it. Residents polled on Wednesday said some of them used it years ago, mostly to take in the water views, but their use has fallen to next to nothing in recent years as the park has deteriorated. . Calling it a park is really a misnomer.

“If you walk past it you might not even notice it,” Vendrasco said.

In contrast, the other three private parks are well maintained and there are currently no concerns about surface flooding affecting neighboring houses, according to Gignac. None of them are subject to property tax due to being co-owned by people who own other properties in Windsor.

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Three of the four parks were established in Riverside over a century ago, when there were no public parks along the river, the report to be delivered to council on Monday said.

Esdras Park, at the foot of Esdras Place, was established in 1912 when lots were being developed on the south side of Riverside Drive, Esdras Place and the east side of Reedmere Road between the promenade and Wyandotte Street. While the owners of 45 properties on Riverside and Esdras are entitled to easements, the property is owned by three properties on Riverside adjacent to the park.

Rossini Park, at the foot of Rossini Avenue, was created in 1916 and is jointly owned by the owners of 48 properties, mostly on Rossini.

Rendezvous Shores Park is the only private park established in recent years, in 1998 when the Rendezvous Shores Subdivision was developed on the north side of the lane just west of the Tecumseh city limit. The park is owned by all owners of Rendezvous Shores.

bcross@postmedia.com

A private park in the Rendezvous Shores subdivision is pictured, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
A private park in the Rendezvous Shores subdivision is pictured, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star
Rossini Park, a private park on Riverside Drive East, at the foot of Rossini Boulevard, is presented on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
Rossini Park, a private park on Riverside Drive East, at the foot of Rossini Boulevard, is presented on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star
A private park on Riverside Drive East, at the base of Ezra Place, is pictured on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
A private park on Riverside Drive East, at the base of Ezra Place, is pictured on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

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