Contradictions hound lawn bowling club transaction

No assurance city would keep Glebe Manor property a greenspace, board rebuffs municipal offer — but sells to developer who plans to build houses

While the Glebe Manor Lawn Bowling Club land is believed to have been sold to a developer who intends to build five houses, it hasn’t spelled the end of the controversies and contradictions that have come to characterize the ongoing saga.

Past president Georgina Raynor maintains the saga is all for naught, citing the club’s letter patent, which she says outlines that the land must revert to greenspace if the club ceases operations.

“It says right in there that if [the club] ceases to be, [the land] is to become greenspace,” she said in a late-January interview. “And the city wouldn’t have to pay any money for it.”

The club voted to cease operations in a November 2013 annual general meeting, where the decision to find a buyer for the property was also reached.

Overtures by the city, represented by Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, to acquire the land went unanswered for months. Outside of a Dec. 17 club shareholders’ meeting in Leaside, to which Matlow, proxies and the news media were barred by hired security guards, club lawyer Jayson Schwarz said they wouldn’t sell to the city because there was no guarantee the property would remain greenspace. Yet the sale was to developer Michael Volpentesta, whom Schwarz said intends to build five houses there.

The controversy involving the club land began in May when former club member and neighbour Derek Tilley contacted the news media, including the Town Crier, alleging club president Phill Foubert had told him the land had been sold to a developer.

Tilley then posted an online petition, calling for community support in halting a sale to a developer so the Mt. Pleasant Rd. and Eglinton Avenue East area property could remain greenspace. The petition had reached 1,371 signatures as of Feb. 2.

Matlow, who says he had made his interest in acquiring the property known to the club as early as November 2013 only to be rebuffed by Foubert, then brought the issue to city council, where he got approval for the city to attempt to negotiate a deal to buy the land.

The city sent a letter to the club and Schwarz on Dec. 17, ahead of the shareholders meeting at Leaside Arena. It was offering what it deemed to be fair market value. That same night Schwarz revealed the amount was $4 million. He also stated the club had sold the land to Volpentesta seven months earlier, for $2.85 million.

Raynor attended the December meeting with husband Wally, himself a past president of the club. The meeting was mired in inconsistencies and controversies, including the club hiring four security guards to stand at the doors of what had been advertised as a general meeting of shareholders.

Some inconsistencies that became apparent at that time are still unanswered for.

One, Georgina Raynor says, is why the club would sell the property to someone whose known intention is not to keep the land a greenspace, when in the club’s own documents, they say they wouldn’t deal with the city because they had no confidence the city would keep it a greenspace.

“You’re saying one thing and doing the opposite,” she said. “If you had no confidence the city was going to keep it a greenspace, then why would you sell it to someone who wasn’t going to make it a greenspace?

“There’s no logic in their argument.”

In spite of Schwarz’s assurance to reporters outside the Leaside meeting that the transaction was “open” and “transparent”, the club executive has remained silent and unavailable throughout the months-long controversy.

Foubert has responded to none of several attempts by the Town Crier to reach him for comment. He left the meeting without interacting with waiting reporters, and did not respond to further interview requests or to an emailed list of questions at the end of January.

Schwarz, who in December extended an invitation to reporters to come by his office to go over the deal in detail, in January offered a terse “no comment” in response to an interview request. He offered the same reply when emailed the same questions posed to Foubert.

Raynor insists there has “never” been openness or transparency throughout the process.

“In [the December] meeting they weren’t open and transparent,” she said. “Any time that you put up four bodyguards to vet all old people, how do you call that a welcome and comforting place?

“That was disgusting.”

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Posted: Feb 5 2015 3:12 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto