City threatens legal action over driveway rented to spy agency employees

City threatens legal action over driveway rented to spy agency employees

A Beacon Hill resident says the City of Ottawa is threatening to take legal action against him if he doesn't stop renting out his unused driveway space to employees who work at the nearby headquarters of Canada's intelligence agencies.

Residents who live in the Beacon Hill-Cyrville Ward have complained to CBC News in the past that employees from the nearby headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Communications Security Establishment (CSE) park on their streets. 

Jevin Maltais said in an interview he thought he had found a solution to the persistent parking problem — and a way to earn about $400 per month — by renting out his driveway to four federal employees. 

"We had cars that were just lining both sides of the street," Maltais said. "The people who own the cars would put letters in our mailboxes saying, 'Do you have places for me to park? The city is ticketing me.'"

Notice of violation

But last week, Maltais received another letter in his mailbox, this time from the city's bylaw department. 

According to the notice of violation, dated Jan.13, Maltais is breaking the city's parking rules by renting the spots out to non-tenants or residents, and must stop by Jan. 31. "Failure to comply with notice will result in further legal action," the notice states, adding that could happen "without further notice."

In a statement, the city said it has issued four notices of violation to property owners in Beacon Hill-Cardinal Heights since Jan 1, 2019, for renting out parking spaces on their properties.

"Allowing a driveway or legal parking space for a residential use to in effect be used as a commercial parking lot would no longer be a secondary use of the land, and may lead to additional traffic and nuisance concerns in conflict with the intent of a residential area," said the city in a statement attributed to David Wise, program manager for zoning and intensification.

Residents 'scared'

Maltais said he knows at least half a dozen other people who are also renting out driveway space, but who are now feeling scared after Maltais received a notice from the city warning him he's violating a zoning bylaw.

"We were pretty surprised and disappointed to see that it's actually legal action against us," said Maltais.

Maltais said he doesn't see any downsides to renting out his own driveway, and hopes the city would consider a pilot project to allow residents to continue renting parking spots.

"We're pretty disappointed this is the city's stance on it currently, when really we've just as citizens tried to help the situation by getting the cars off the street," he said.

Backyards paved for parking

The area's city councillor said he understands the frustration, but said the rules on renting out driveways are clear.

"No municipalities allow people to be able to rent out their spots; they're not zoned that way. If they were zoned, they would have to hold a million dollars worth of commercial insurance," said Coun. Tim Tierney, who represents Beacon Hill-Cyrville.

Tierney said he knows of residents who have even paved their backyards to create parking spaces for federal workers

Jean Delisle/CBC

He said paving backyard green space also breaks provincial regulations, since it doesn't allow for proper drainage on properties.

"When it gets to the point that you're in non-compliance, you're not zoned, it goes to a provincial level, it's actually not even the city," Tierney said.

Jean Delisle/CBC

In statements to CBC, both CSIS and CSE said they remind their employees to follow municipal parking rules, and encourage them to take public transit, carpool or cycle to work. 

CSE also said it opened a new parking lot earlier this month with 400 spaces.