Volume 91, Issue 85

Wednesday, March 11, 1998

home and dry


Bargain hunting: Admin strikes deal with residents

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Western's campus may see a new addition after the university signed a conditional agreement yesterday to buy the property of 33 Tower Lane – but neighbours believe the administration is buying off their problems.

The house is located directly behind the planned site of the new residence on the north side of University Drive. The building was approved by City Council last week and the only condition to satisfy the agreement is that the university obtain a building permit for the residence, which is expected to be complete by the fall of 1999.

Jay Casselman, next-door neighbour of 33 Tower Lane, said the university is buying off their difficulties with the street's residents. "The university did this to head off a legal challenge. They had to do something to diminish the opposition."

Administration is planning to take ownership around the end of April and will rent the house for the duration of construction and resell it after the residence is built, said Peter Mercer, VP-administration.

"It's not unusual in a situation where the development has a particularly profound effect to purchase a piece of property," he said. He added the owners of the house, Ralph Sweitzer and Don Barham, originally approached the university in January with the idea to buy the property.

©Brendan Howe/Gazette

HOME SWEET HOME. Western's administration agreed to buy the property of 33 Tower Lane (above) after legal negotiations.

Ken McGill, lawyer for the owners of 33 Tower Lane, would not disclose the price of the agreement but estimates from neighbours on the value of the property have ranged from $200,000 to $250,000.

Meghan Symsyk, University Students' Council VP-student affairs, said she wondered where the university was getting the money for this. "Everyone's being told the well has run dry."

This is not an expenditure by the university but a case of putting some money aside, Mercer said, adding the university has an operating budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. "At any given point in time the university has money it hasn't committed to certain matters."

Casselman was also concerned about the university's timing in letting people know about their intentions to buy the house. He said there is a feeling of bad faith among neighbours because this was kept quiet when the residents met with the university. "They made nothing possible until the last possible moment."

He also said neighbours are concerned about the street turning into a party zone if the house is rented out to students. Students currently rent some of the houses on the street.

Mercer said they would rent it out to whoever wanted to live there, such as temporary professors coming to Western. He noted there would be some consideration to who rents the house, however. "We're not going to rent it out to a chapter of the local motorcycle club."

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998