The news that the City of Winnipeg seized an apartment building under their vacant building bylaw stoked up a little idea that was smoldering amongst the moss and twigs in my mind: Perhaps this bylaw could be expanded to include empty lots as well.
I am thinking of a couple in particular. One is on Portage avenue between Edmonton and Kennedy St. It used to be a small park with giant jelly beans that you can sit on, and apparently had a name other than "Jelly Bean Park" which is what I called it, but I don't recall what that name was. It was purchased by a fellow named Ray Rybachuk, fellow developer Russ Knight and his lawyer friend Ken Carroll who came forward with a plan to build a 12-story office and parkade there. That plan was probably a ruse from the beginning, as nothing ever happened there and it doesn't appear as though anything ever will. Instead, the park was turned into a make-shift gravel parking lot that violates every rule the city has about surface parking lots, which are an eye sore at the best of times. (See the bottom of this post for more dirt on Raymond J Rybachuk.)
If only the city had some sort of way to reclaim emply lots by law that are being willfully misused by derelict owners. We could call it a "bylaw" or something. Yeah, a "derelict property bylaw". That sounds catchy!
Honesty though, the city should have the ability to reclaim this land, as the owner is clearly not going to develop it as intended and is blatantly flouting city rules. It is also an ugly "missing tooth" on a high visibity street, and thus has greater negative impact than just any old vacant lot. Perhaps if the rules had more teeth, like the ability of the city to secure this property, then owners like Rybachuk might be more inclined to get their act together.
Another property that I fear may befall the same fate is the old Fat Angel lot on Main Street. Yes, I know what I said:
There are certain buildings that are just so ugly -- so disfiguring to the urban streetscape -- that they must be destroyed, even if it means replacing them with a gravel parking lot.but to be fair, one of my staffers wrote that piece because I was busy smoking pot and counting ceiling tiles. I am slightly worried though: cars are starting to appear on the site of the old Fat Angel on Main -- another high visibility area -- although they may only be on what used to be the paved area behind the old building. However this may creep into becoming a full blown contraband gravel parking lot as well.
We need a carrot and stick policy. There should be incentives or encouragement for developing crucial areas like this, possibly including access to Tax Increment Financing. The city also needs to get out of the way of progress. There are numerous stories of costly red tape, most recently Basil's fight for a simple liquor license to reopen an establishment in Osborne Village. But there also needs to be a stick to move things along and prevent abuse.
The name "Ray Rybachuk" comes up in another unseemly story as well, about stealing proprty. And then there's this: one guy on a website called scaminformer.com writes:
Keep in mind Raymond Rybachuk is a convicted cocaine dealer, so how much credibility should you extend to someone with that kind of history?Probably the same guy goes on another rant about "big fat guy Raymond Rybachuk" on a web site called ripoffreport.com.
And more importantly, why is a lawyer Ken Carroll or a real estate professional Russ Knight associated with a known cocaine dealer? Or are they anymore, considering Raymond Rybachuk was evicted from his office on the 8th floor of the Boyd Medical Centre, and is now continuing his slumlord business from Lead Management on Notre Dame St in Winnipeg.
If you are a business professional, be very wary of dealing with anyone associated with Raymond J Rybachuk, including Lead Management, Ken Carroll, Russ Knight, Boyd Medical Centre or any investments offered using the phone numbers 204-951-6750 or 204-989-0635 these are the main numbers used by Raymond J Rybachuk in perpertrating his investment scams, including his most recent attempt at selling property in Belize that he doesn't even own.
More bizaarly, the website rayrybachuk.com advertises oceanfront property while accusing Rybachuk of being a scam artist and "convicted cocaine dealer". I don't know if this web site was hacked or what, but it is very strange.
Only $50k for a convicted cocaine dealer? And I can finance? I'd be crazy not to buy!
I didn't link to these web sites on purpose because they are kind of icky, but you can find them easily enough. Sombody certainly has it in for this guy though.
** Update **
Thanks to a certain person with access to the Free Press archives, I can confirm that Rybachuk was in fact arrested in relation to a drug smuggling operation.