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Chinese family claims human rights violated by Toronto zoning bylaw.

Family appeals again to save reno

Tseng family's efforts to get addition legalized have cost city $500,000, councillor says

Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont.

Author: Daniel Dale

Date: Aug 21, 2012

Start Page: GT.3

Section: Greater Toronto

Text Word Count: 622

The family that has fought for six years to prevent the demolition of an illegal backyard home addition has filed another appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which rejected the first appeal in 2008.

"We don't hurt anybody. The neighbours, the city speak out like we are very bad person. We are not bad person. We just want our addition allowed. We don't have anywhere to go," Shih Tseng said Monday.

Shih Tseng, 76, lives in the Brunswick Ave. house with his disabled wife, Yang Tseng, 70. Yang Tseng suffers from serious mobility problems, depression and anxiety, and a Parkinson's-like brain disorder. Shih Tseng says they need the addition to allow Yang Tseng to live comfortably on one floor. The Tsengs built the two-storey, $80,000 addition without permits in 2006. Their attempts to get it retroactively legalized have been dismissed by the city's committee of adjustment, the OMB, and the courts.

Shih Tseng maintains the family did not know that permits were necessary. Neighbourhood opponents are dubious, noting that daughter Pauline Tseng is a lawyer (who now owns the property and filed the new appeal under her name) and that Shih Tseng himself is a retired realtor.

Shih Tseng says the family has spent about $300,000 on the legal battle. Councillor Adam Vaughan says city officials have told him the battle has cost the city about $500,000.

City lawyers will attend the OMB hearing to oppose the new appeal because the previous council decided to have city lawyers oppose the original appeal, spokesperson Ellen Leesti said. "This second appeal is in substance the same as the first appeal," she said.

Vaughan and Rory "Gus" Sinclair, former president of the Harbord Village Residents' Association, have urged the Tsengs to stop. "The Tsengs will do what they will do - extraordinary as they may be for pursuing this yet again when they have lost at every turn already," Sinclair said in a text message. "What I am unhappy with today is a process that has denied them at every stage and yet those proceedings are not just 'un-final,' all the work and all the time spent by lawyers, volunteers and tribunals is null."

The addition is about the same size as a rotting old addition the Tsengs tore down. But it runs 10 meters deeper into the backyard than allowed under current bylaws, and the city says it blocks sunlight and views from adjacent properties. At a committee of adjustment meeting in July, lawyer Clayton Ruby argued that requiring the Tsengs to demolish the addition would amount to discrimination against the disabled. He suggested that Yang Tseng might be at risk of committing suicide if she were forced to move. The committee was unswayed by Ruby's human rights arguments. But the Tsengs' lawyers plan to raise them anew at the OMB, Ruby's colleague Gerald Chan said Monday. The Tsengs appealed to the courts after the OMB rejected their original appeal. They were unsuccessful, but a judge allowed them to try their luck once more at the committee.

Vaughan and Sinclair believed the committee meeting was the Tsengs' last hope. The judge actually gave them the right to make a second appeal to the OMB. If the OMB denies this appeal, the Tsengs can then ask the courts to hear a final appeal. The family has also made a plea to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.


Credit: Daniel Dale Toronto Star