Over nearly 50 years Tom Beltsos has removed countless works of graffiti from the walls of his auto service centre at 929 Queen St. East. However, he’d like the latest piece to show up on his garage to stay.
Over a year ago Beltsos was issued a notice by the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division telling him to remove graffiti that had appeared on the back wall of his business.
Beltsos has taken down graffiti before, but doesn’t mind the latest piece. He also adds that the cost of removal can get quite expensive.
“The other ones we painted over them, they were offensive,” he said. “This is not offensive so I don’t consider it as being derogatory to anybody.
“Last time it cost me $2,500 to clean it up and repaint. That’s a lot of money.”
Rather than have the graffiti removed, Beltsos submitted a request to the city last July asking that the graffiti be classified as an art mural, and therefore not subject to removal.
The final decision on the artistic value of the graffiti was to be made by the Toronto and East York Community Council in March, but it deferred the decision until a June 22 meeting.
Gus Michaels, manager of investigation services at Municipal Licensing and Standards, said another deferral is a possibility given that a report on a new graffiti strategy for the city is to be presented on June 29.
“Community Council may in fact grant a decision or defer pending the outcome of that report going to licensing and standards,” Michaels said.
Since the inauguration of Mayor Rob Ford, the number of graffiti notices has increased dramatically.
According to licensing and standards executive director, Jim Hart, there have been 4,338 notices issued since December — more than double from years past.
Of those, 72 percent have removed the graffiti on their buildings. Still, almost 200 appeals similar to Beltsos’ are currently pending.
Beltsos said he doesn’t think the city’s strategy is working and is actually counter-productive.
“As soon as you clean it up, you just give them a clean slate to work with and they just come back a week later and it gives them something nicer to work with,” he said. “It’s an ongoing thing, it will never end.”
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