wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by councillor

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wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by councillor

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:33 am

Beach battle pits accessible home versus old home Couple’s plans for wheelchair-accessible home opposed by 'neighbours' and a councillor
May 28 2010

Geoff Teehan cares. He cares about his beloved wife, Melissa. She is a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair. If she is to live with a modicum of independence, she needs a home designed to be accessible.

Elizabeth Brown cares. She cares about the house across the street from her. It is a century old, it is a sterling example of beach cottage style, and it has a turret. If her beloved Balmy Beach neighbourhood is to retain its look and feel, the house at 204 Beech Ave. cannot be replaced with a modernist box.

Lots of things about this most unusual preservation-versus-development battle eat at Geoff Teehan. He can’t understand how anyone could value a building over the pressing needs of a family. He can’t understand how his councillor could be one of the people trying to thwart him. He can’t understand how the objections of a handful of critics can trump the endorsements of dozens of supporters. He can’t understand how he can follow all the rules yet run afoul of them.

And then there’s this: He knows he caused the whole mess himself.

Digital media is what Geoff Teehan does. His company, Teehan+Lax, has developed websites for major brands like Telus, BMW, JPMorgan and the Toronto Star. So when he and Melissa set about building the dream home they need only because of their nightmare, it was only natural that he would set up a site, 204Beech.com, to host a blog that would keep family and friends abreast of their progress.

“The worst decision I’ve ever made,” he says now. “Seriously. The worst.”

During the leafy months of the year, Brown doesn’t see 204 Beech from her chair on the front porch of 205 Beech. During the months when the grand trees on both lawns are barren, she says, “it’s my visual.”

“The castle house” is quirky and charming and evocative of a bygone era, and Brown, an artist, loves the Beach in significant part because of its quirks and charm and remnants of the past. She has lived on Beech Ave. for 15 years — 10 at 205, five next door — and likes it the way it is. She was alarmed, therefore, when she saw a May 7 Globe and Mail article that described the Teehans’ plans. The article, prompted by Geoff Teehan’s blog, was accompanied by renderings of a blocky 2,250-square-foot contemporary home.

The article discussed Melissa Teehan’s condition. Brown nonetheless contacted Councillor Sandra Bussin to register her disapproval.

“When you go up against something like that, it’s very awkward,” Brown says. “Of course it is. But I haven’t launched a campaign to fight this man and his wife. My heart goes out to them and their situation; I’m empathetic to the family. I just don’t think the two issues are the same issues. I’m not fighting to prevent her from something, even though they’ve been clear they’d like to build this house to help her with access because of her paralysis. I’m trying to preserve a home that adds character and beauty to my neighbourhood for future generations to enjoy. So: I don’t wish them any harm. I just want to protect that house.”

Brown repeatedly expresses an appreciation for the Teehans’ challenges. Yet she also says she believes Geoff Teehan has exploited Melissa’s disability to win support.

Asked for her age as a reporter leaves her own century-old house, she says she is 44. Then she adds, smiling: “I don’t have a disability. Sorry. If I did, maybe I could use that, too.”


Melissa Teehan awoke on July 13, 2007, with a pain in her neck that turned into a numbness that progressed to her arms and chest. She was rushed to hospital, where the numbness became paralysis. She was put on life support, then diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder.


After nine months of rehab, Teehan, now 38, was still unfit to return to a lovingly renovated Elmer Ave. house that was suddenly unsuited to her needs. She, Geoff and their sons, ages 9 and 7, moved to a nice but cramped 900-square-foot condo on Queen St. E. Soon they began a search for a 50-foot Beach lot that would allow them to build the home Altius Architecture designed to include an elevator, ramps, wide doors, low cabinets, and other custom features.

Melissa has only minimal use of her hands and feet; a move into the Altius home would not make her self-sufficient. It would, however, make her more so.

“He met me as an independent woman,” she says, sitting beside Geoff in her power wheelchair. Before her paralysis, she was a manager in advertising at Metroland, a publisher owned by Torstar Corp. “The last thing I want to do is be cared for the rest of my life. Being in an accessible home would allow me to get around and do as much as I can without always having to ask for help.”

In January, a year and a half into their quest, the Teehans spotted the listing for 204 Beech. The first thing they did, says Geoff, 35, was make sure it was not a heritage house. It was not. They quickly made the “successful” offer that may turn into a calamity.

Lloyd Alter, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, says the Teehans are victims of a wider problem. Because Toronto has not invested in a comprehensive inventory of its historic buildings, buyers are frequently forced into unforeseeable post-purchase problems.

“I feel really, really sorry for these people, who probably did all this in good faith. And I blame the system,” Alter says. “We should be documenting every street in the city. We should be figuring out what buildings are important to us and worth saving. And we should be making that very clear to everyone.”

Despite his sympathy for the Teehans, Alter thinks 204 Beech is “a gem” worth preserving. And he and Brown are not the only ones. Among the Teehans’ critics is Kirstin Campbell, a resident of the house decades ago. Campbell, who now lives in Germany, set up a blog entitled “204 Beech Ave, Save It!” She temporarily shut it down after it was flooded by critical posts from Geoff Teehan’s Twitter followers, whom he egged on.

The Teehans hope an offline flood of support helps them win a more traditional battle against a more formidable opponent. Bussin, who was contacted by several concerned residents, introduced a motion at a community council meeting Tuesday requesting that Heritage Preservation Services report speedily on whether 204 Beech should be considered a heritage site.

She had in hand a report from the respected ERA Architects that said the house, built prior to 1910, does indeed have heritage value. Noting its turret, long open veranda and five-sided dormer window, ERA called the house “an important surviving example of the early development of the Balmy Beach neighbourhood.” The motion passed, and the future of 204 Beech is now in the hands of heritage staff.

Says Bussin: “I’m very empathetic. I recognize this is an important move for them, and the challenges the family is experiencing. However, this is an important property to the heritage of the community and the city. We’re dealing with a legacy property here in the Beach.”

Alternately bewildered and frustrated, Geoff Teehan occasionally lapses into profanity when discussing the controversy. “We feel like: Seriously? This is happening? On top of all the other bullsh--, all the other stuff we’ve had to deal with? We just can’t believe it,” he says.

The Teehans don’t believe 204 Beech is worthy of preservation. Altius partner Graham Smith says the house is no more remarkable architecturally than dozens of others nearby; he believes it falls far short of the criteria for the heritage tag — and that the opposition is motivated more by distaste for the planned house than concern for the current house. Says Melissa: “Why all of a sudden do they feel it’s a heritage home? They never did before.”

The Teehans also don’t believe their opponents truly care about their plight. If Brown believes they are playing up Melissa’s disability, Geoff says with evident hurt, she is “sick.” Bussin, Melissa says, “blindsided” them by not informing them she would be discussing their house at community council. If he had known, Smith says, he would have been present, along with a consulting expert, to argue the Teehans’ case.

The Teehans have trouble believing, finally, that they even have staunch opponents. “I am shocked,” Geoff Teehan says, “that the facade of a home is more important than the needs of a family. Communities are made of people. They’re not made of houses.” Says Melissa, calmer: “It just saddens me. We just want our lives back. We’re not trying to upset anyone. We just want to live our lives.”

The Teehans invested their life savings in the purchase of the property. They believe a heritage designation would produce a financially ruinous decline in its value. They are also unsure how they would deal with yet another emotional blow. Failure here, Melissa says, “would be too much to take.”

Geoff deleted most of 204Beech.com earlier in May. He concedes the site should never have existed. He refuses to concede that the move will be delayed. Fall 2011 is when they were going to arrive at 204 Beech; Fall 2011, he says, is when they will do so.

It may not work out that way, but the Teehans have reason for continued optimism. Even if 204 Beech is designated a heritage property, council could vote to allow demolition. And the Teehans can appeal up to the Ontario Municipal Board if they fail at the city level.

As soon as possible, they still hope, they will be living in their perfect home, across the street from Elizabeth Brown.
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article ... s-old-home
Last edited by Rox on Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:10 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by neighbhou

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:36 am

Sadly the battle continues...

Toronto Sun
3 June 2010
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article ... ation?bn=1

Toronto Sun
6 June 2010
http://www.torontosun.com/comment/colum ... 70916.html
Melissa, 38 and a mother of two sons, is a quadriplegic after being diagnosed in 2007 with a rare neurological disorder called transverse myelitis.

After a neighbour complained, Bussin quickly rammed through a motion at the May 25 Toronto East York community council meeting to seek heritage designation for the property — a report she told the angry crowd Thursday will be available on June 30.

Geoff accused Bussin of effectively stalling any hope of getting building or demolition permits in a timely manner and putting his family’s “well-being at risk.”

Later he told me he felt she’d totally “abused her power” by meddling with the plans for his house.

“She has more control over that property than my wife and I do now,” he said.

Melissa says she feels completely betrayed by Bussin.

“It’s almost like living in a Third World country,” she said, noting this issue could “bring down” Bussin in October. “I had no idea that one councillor could have so much control over a single property.”

Full story:
http://www.torontosun.com/comment/colum ... 70916.html
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by neighbhou

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:45 am

More media coverage on this case.
http://www.openfile.ca/toronto-file/204 ... se-or-home

Councillor Sandra Bussin is sticking to her guns on 204 Beech Ave but constituents at a community meeting have accused her of firing blanks.

Watch here the meeting discussed in this report
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hOvtN4BkoU
Last edited by Rox on Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by neighbhou

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:53 am

If you feel like emailing the councillor Sandra Bussin re Melissa Teehan case:

Councillor's facebook address
http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Counci ... /721357159

Councillor's official website
http://www.sandrabussin.ca/pagedisplay.aspx?i=270

Councillor's official contact details
City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite B28, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Phone: 416-392-1376
Fax: 416-392-7444
councillor_bussin@toronto.ca

Wikipedia references to this councillor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Bussin
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by councillo

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:50 am

Here is the blog of Teehan family updating about their struggle to make their home wheelchair-accesible to Melissa, a plan that has been opposed by some 'neighbours' and the Councillor Sandra Bussin
http://204beech.com/

The Teehans need to have a wheelchair-accessible home. That is incontrovertible. The debate surrounds whether the cottage currently standing at 204 Beech has to be modified so that the Teehans can have what they need. See discussion at:
http://jim-graham.net/archives/83

And then please help. A blog was launched to prevent the Teehan family to make their home wheelchair-accesible.
http://204beech.blogspot.com/

The creator of the blog, Kirsten Campbell, lived in the home decades ago but is now residing in Germany!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kirsten Campbell, wants to apply to the Toronto Heritage Preservation Services to declare Teehan's house a heritage property, category under which the Teehan family will not be able to get the permission to make their home wheelchair-accesible.
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by councillo

Postby Rox » Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:55 am

This is what we can do to help the Teehan family:

1) Sign the petition below:

http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/204beech

2) Get it touch with your Canadian councillor. That is if you live in Canada. If not, contact the Teehan's family councillor Sandra Bussin. Here’s how:

**** Sample Script *****
Hello, my name is and I’m calling you from (city or town or your ward name).

I’m calling today because I’m concerned over the actions and position that Sandra Bussin, City Councillor for Beaches East York Ward 32, has taken against the Teehan family, of 204 Beech Avenue, to stop them from exercising their rights as property owners to make changes to their property that would allow them to live in a modern, wheelchair accessible home.

Councillor Bussin did not give any notification to the owners of 204 Beech to put forward a motion to seek heritage designation for this property. Councillor Bussin’s motion was also misleading in a number of areas. She stated that their home is of “historical significance” as found in an ERA report she commissioned. ERA has made it clear this is not a report, rather just a “simple letter of opinion” that they typically don’t charge for. Councillor Bussin filed this motion and only let the Teehan family know she did so after the fact thus denying the Teehan family to present their case in front of the same committee. Councillor Bussin has even gone on via the media to suggest that the Teehan’s should’ve contacted her before purchasing the property. Councillor Bussin has also made misleading statements that an online petition was created to save 204 Beech Avenue as a heritage site. There is no evidence to suggest that any such online petition exists.

The Teehans and all concerned citizens throughout Toronto need the support of every member of Toronto’s City Council to examine Councillor Bussin’s questionable behaviour and misleading statements as well as to right this wrong. If her motion is not rescinded based on the information that has become available this decision will impact the rights of all Torontonians who own properties for years to come.

Can I count on Councillor _ to support me, the Teehan Family, and other concerned property owners?

*********
If you live in Canada, you can find your councillor address at:
http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp
If you don't know who your councillor is:
http://app.toronto.ca/wards/jsp/wards.jsp


Info taken from
http://204beech.com/
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Re: wheelchair-accessible to TM patient opposed by councillo

Postby Rox » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:44 am

Fantastic news!
25 June 2010

Melissa and her partner were mired in bureaucracy until June 23, when the couple won the right to demolish the home. Construction on a modernist home that can meet Melissa’s needs will begin before September.

Transverse myelitis, left Melissa paralyzed below the neck. It was sudden. The transformation, from go-go advertising executive mom and long-distance runner to quadriplegic, took a few hours.

Melissa plans to build a house to suit her needs become a heated community debate.

More on this story:
http://www.thestar.com/living/food/arti ... -situation
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