Couple withdraws from Wychwood levy
Homeowners refused to pay for upkeep of private areas and won
Two Wychwood Park residents have successfully withdrawn from a century-old agreement that required them to pay an annual levy for the upkeep of the community’s private common areas.
On May 18, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in favour of Katherine Anderson and Gerald Owen, whose family has lived on Alcina Avenue for more than a century. The judgment absolves the couple of any responsibility to pay fees levied by the private neighbourhood’s trustees, that help to cover annual maintenance costs for the shared road, pond and tennis court.
In the decision, Justice Eleanore Cronk noted the conclusion could have implications for the rights and obligations of the trustees and other landowners currently held accountable to the trust deed established in 1891.
The legal drama began in 2008, when longtime resident Ivor Owen took issue with paying for the community’s private grounds.
A previous court ruling required Owen to pay the levy. However when his son Gerald and daughter-in-law Katherine Anderson inherited the house after his death in 2010, they, too, refused to pay, and the issue returned to the courts another four times.
Now, with the end of any legal obligation to pay annual levies, there has been some speculation that Wychwood Park’s 125-year history as a private neighbourhood may soon draw to a close.
“I think it would be a shame if the land was taken over by the city,” said Sarah Elizabeth, a local resident of the area for more than 20 years. “I guess we will have to wait and see if the community is still prepared to pay its dues.”
For Roger Dent, one of the park’s three trustees, the legal battle has been a matter of principle. Since the value of Wychwood Park homes average well above $2 million, Dent noted the annual four-figure levies are an insignificant burden on most residents.
“I don’t think this will be the end of Wychwood.” said Dent. “This is a case of one couple who will not pay their condo fees, except they fund a shared road and pond, not a staircase.”
Although Dent is confident that Wychwood Park’s future is not seriously threatened by the court’s judgment, he is concerned that the repeated references to the park’s status as a private neighbourhood belie its true nature.
“We would never want to stop people from strolling through and enjoying our grounds and architecture,” he said, “They are something we are happy to share.”
The private tennis court in Wychwood Park can only be used by residents who help pay for its maintenance