Mary Alice St. James couldn’t believe her eyes when she heard loud music in the middle of the night and looked out her window. “I saw four young men getting out of a car at the house behind us,” she said. “Three proceeded to urinate on the lawn and the fourth defecated.” St. James said there was a party inside with a disc jockey playing music so loudly it almost sounded like a siren. “They were playing until the wee hours of the morning,” she said. St. James, a retired school principal who lives on Oak Crescent between Walkers Line and Appleby Line, heads a group of citizens pleading with city council to put a short-term accommodation bylaw in place to regulate owners who operate Air Bed and Breakfasts. The monster home at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Goodram Drive, she claims, has gone a step further by seemingly operating as a banquet hall, with weddings, reunions and prom parties held there. It all started about midnight on Aug. 28 with what appeared to be a party for high school students set to start university.
When she and her husband came home at 10:30 in the evening, she said,there were no cars parked on the street. But before midnight there were about 40. Several area residents called the police, who finally arrived after about an hour. A message also was left with a City bylaw officer, but because it was after midnight nobody responded. St. James said a young boy who lives on Oak Crescent had just had his tonsils removed earlier in the week and was trying to get some sleep. In addition, children in the neighborhood are unable to ride their bicycles safely because of the preponderance of parked cars there, sometimes in the daytime. “The police asked them to tone it down and they did,” she said. “But as soon as the police left, it started up again.”
In late October St. James and her husband went out with some friends to hear a band play at a legitimate banquet hall. When the friends came back to their place, there was no way they could make a lefthand turn from Lakeshore to Goodram because cars were parked everywhere. On a few occasions, she said, there has been an open fire pit in the backyard of the home and even fireworks set off. “It’s very dangerous because we live in a heavily treed area,” she said. “There’s no way anybody could even think about inviting family members over for a backyard barbecue,” she said. “There are cars parked on both sides of the street. People are coming and going and they’re really in a hurry because it’s hard to find a spot when you’re car number 31 or whatever.” St. James said she once saw a car parked there with 12 tickets on it. There have been broken bottles and busted bongs on the lawn.
At a recent council meeting Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said Air BandB’s are here to stay, but they are not meant to be conference centres. She later said the City is looking at formulating licencing restrictions for short-term rentals, but would not reveal the name of the home owner or provide more details, saying the matter is under investigation. Councillor Shawna Stolte, who represents Ward 4 where the house is located, said the City is first approaching fixing the problem from the point of view of zoning. “It’s being run as a commercial venue in a residential setting,” she said. Stolte said the owner was given fair warning last summer, now the City is taking legal action.
She also said the operator knew all the loopholes regarding parking because the City allows each person up to 14 free street-night parkings a year. “When an event was booked at the venue, part of the process of booking was educating party hosts that all they needed to do was register their licence plate number online with the City.” she said. St. James said the house was only built within the last three years after a ranch-style bungalow was torn down on the prime piece of land. She said it originally was advertised for sale for $4.9 million, but when it didn’t sell it was turned into an Air Bed and Breakfast. It now has a sign on the lawn offering the home for $4.3 million. The Bay Observer knocked on the door of the home with no response and dialed the phone number with the same result. Halton Regional Police confirmed they were called to the property on Aug. 28, but no charges were laid after the occupants agreed to cut the noise level. They also responded to another loud noise complaint when a wedding was held there on Aug. 31.