Young, Scott Mar 29, 1965 The Globe and Mail pg. 6
More about Maria Street
By Scott Young
Last Wednesday I was in City Hall checking for background to City Councils decision to expropriate Benny Stark’s salvage yard business on Maria St. This busy short old street backs on to the Canadian Pacific Railway freight yards not far from the west-end stockyards and packing plants and is just south of St. Clair off Runnymede Road.
One of my conversations was with Alderman Mary Temple. Maria Street is in her ward. She took dead aim on Benny Stark’s yard more than five years ago, when Stark bought it. She and a militant group of Stark’s neighbors had lost every round until last summer when they began to win.
I told Mrs. Temple I was interested in how Stark’s business could be ruled legal by the Metro Licensing Commission in 1959, by a magistrates count in 1960, by a county court judge in 1961, and by a voluminous police report in 1964 – and still could be expropriated in 1965.
She wanted to know if I had spoken to any of Stark’s neighbors. I had. Stark’s business, by its very nature, never will win any Home Beautiful awards. But some of his opponents became his neighbors voluntarily, knowing fully what business he was in. Also, some did not agree with expropriating Stark. And several other businesses on the street are there only because their licenses, like his, pre-date a 1953 zoning bylaw. (This is called a legal non-conforming use, madam).
“He never should have been allowed a license there to start with, you know,” Mrs Temple said.
How did he get it, then? “He had help.”
What kind of help? “You know – under the table. Somebody exerting pressure.”
Who exerted the pressure? “I’d rather not say,” she said.
Somebody in City Council? She said yes.
Subsequently I repeated this allegation of influence to Mr. Stark. He denied that anyone at City Hall ever had exerted influence for him that he knew of.
If Mrs. Temple always has believed there was undue influence exerted in granting the Stark license, it may help to explain her dogged pursuit. But if she has any evidence, should she not have offered it to the City Council publicly at the time or in the many times later when the matter has come up?
I also found disturbing her reaction to the court decisions in Stark’s favor. “Those decisions were a laugh,” she said.
I got much the same reaction from Alderman Horace Brown, who telephoned me on the matter Friday. He scoffed at the court decision in such a way that I said, “if you are going to call a judge a fool, why don’t you do it out in the open and see what happens?” He said he had, but I do not recall the occasion myself.
I should correct one impression given in my capsule account of this strange case Friday. Board of Control was NOT unanimous in voting for expropriation. Controller Herbet Orliffe suggested sensibly that the Planning Board should provide a list of the worst non-conforming uses in the city. He thought Council could use such a list when planning expropriations, instead of shooting the bounders down more or less haphazardly. His amendment was defeated 4-1. Incidentally, Real Estate Commissioner David Alexander says there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-conforming uses in the city. But only Benny Stark has his neighbors, and the favorite alderman.
As a footnote, City Council does not seem to have been given full information in this case before voting for expropriation March 15. Old hands could remember at least some of the background, of course. But the eight freshmen aldermen could only put their faith in the good reputation of Mary Temple. And her reputation is among the best on Council However, in this case it was something like voting old Junius at the top of the page.