Over the past few months, the Roncesvalles Village BIA has been contacted by many political candidates to get our view on construction in the City of Toronto.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA is staunchly non-partisan, and so we are offering the following recommendations regarding construction to anyone who cares to read them.
1) The City of Toronto must establish and enforce deadlines on all City contracts with meaningful penalties for late completion.
One of the most disruptive elements of construction is the uncertainty that it brings to a community. When a contractor faces no penalty for not completing work according to a schedule that they agree to and often set themselves, the only people who suffer are the residents and businesspeople in the community. This appears to be the case in Toronto, all too frequently.
Many other municipalities in the GTA do enforce late penalties in their contracts, and contractors frequently have simultaneous jobs with several municipalities. Logically, contracts without enforced late penalties take a back seat to those that do. Toronto’s neighbourhoods deserve to be on an equal footing with other communities in southern Ontario. The City of Toronto must establish and enforce deadlines on its contracts.
2) The City of Toronto must take responsibility for damages done to properties as a result of construction.
It is unfair in the extreme that small businesses be required to navigate difficult legal waters to redress damage done to their properties by as a result of City contracted work. After all, the contractor is hired by the City!
Often a small business owner cannot afford expensive legal help, and must pursue compensation alone. Often a claim can take years to settle. For a property/business owner suffering loss of business due to construction, delays in compensation can be financially devastating. The City of Toronto is in a better position to hold contractors to account than individual business or property owners.
The City of Toronto can and should quickly assess all claims for property damage, promptly compensate the property owner for damages resulting from City contracted work, and, if need be, pursue the contractor for damages itself.
3) The City of Toronto needs a construction czar.
A construction czar would oversee construction in the City of Toronto, avoiding disruptive overlap of projects, such as currently affect Roncesvalles Village at large. At the same time as Roncesvalles Avenue is undergoing significant construction, many smaller construction projects are affecting side streets and arterial roads throughout our neighbourhood, creating tremendous and unnecessary disruption. In our view, this can be and should be avoided in Toronto’s communities.
A construction czar should also oversee the several contracts that a single contractor may have with the City at the same time, with the goal of concentrating a contractor’s efforts on a single job at one time to get it done quickly. In our view this would help to reduce the length of construction jobs everywhere.
We know that construction is an unavoidable part of life in Toronto, and that many contractors and City staff do fine work. As our neighbourhood’s cheeky shop local posters say: “Construction Sucks, but we totally understand, it needs to be done.” We believe in collaboration, not conflict. In general, Roncesvalles Village has benefitted from good collaboration between the City, various contractors, the BIA and our local Residents’ Associations. We are convinced that the trials of construction in Roncesvalles Village would be much worse without the good relationships we have helped to foster.
Nevertheless, we believe that these three points should be taken to heart by any City administration that seeks to create policies that would minimize the disruption that construction brings to its neighbourhoods.
Chair, Roncesvalles Village BIA