Car dealerships facing ‘cash grab’ from region: lawyer

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Lisa Queen
Vaughan Citizen

VAUGHAN, ONT. –  As Remo Ferri walks around the crammed parking lot of one of his car dealerships, he frets another potentially frustrated customer is driving away because there is nowhere to park.

Vehicles must gingerly snake around parked cars and trucks packed in at the Pine Tree Ford Lincoln dealership in Vaughan, Ont., roughly 15 minutes north of Toronto.

Ferri pays thousands of dollars a month renting parking space at several sites in the areas of Hwy. 7 and Weston Road, Jane Street and Steeles Avenue and in Toronto at Weston and Steeles for employees and customers who are having their vehicles serviced.

Ferri, who also owns BMW, MINI, Subaru and Ferrari Maserati dealerships, shuttles them back and forth in a bus and vans.
He would love to build at least one parking garage but would face at least tens of thousands of dollars in municipal development charges.

Those are the fees on new development to pay for growth-related services such as new roads and water and sewer pipes.

“I can’t pay the levies. The business won’t sustain it,” Ferri said, adding his industry has changed over the past several years to require more parking for additional employees, bays to recharge electric cars, clients’ cars in for servicing and courtesy cars.

“I don’t think we’re treated fair. We are part of the growth of this community. We serve the community, we employ a lot of people and we need to be dealt with fairly. They need to understand our business.”

The charges make no sense to Ferri and at least 26 other York Region car dealerships in Vaughan, Markham, Thornhill,

Richmond Hill and Newmarket, who have hired lawyer Leo Longo with Bay Street law firm Aird and Berlis.

It’s free to park cars in ground-level parking lots, but the dealerships face potentially millions of dollars in charges if they want to build parking structures, even though they aren’t using any additional municipal services, Longo argued while sitting in a boardroom of Ferri’s Ferrari Maserati dealership.

“It’s basically a significant, we think, cash grab by the region, one that’s not authorized by (provincial) legislation,” he said.
While dealerships are upset with local and regional levies, Longo is focused on fighting regional development charges because York is bringing in a new bylaw this spring.

He wants the region to abolish development charges on parking structures. He also wants the region to significantly reduce its charges for service bays.

Longo and Ferri accept having higher retail development charges for vehicle showrooms.

Due to the status of the dealerships’ complaint, the region is limited in what it can say about the issue, Warren Marshall, director of the controllership office, said in a statement.

But development charges are needed because they are the primary source of funding required to pay for growth-related infrastructure, he said, adding the region calculates non-residential charges based on gross floor area and type of use, such as retail space and storage areas.