Owner of Toronto property with 250-year-old oak tree must sell to city at agreed price, judge says

An Ontario court ruled in favor of the city of Toronto in its offer to preserve a 250-year-old oak tree – ordering the owner of the North York property on which the tree sits to sell the house to the city at the agreed price, despite the current market value soaring during the pandemic.

In a virtual hearing Thursday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Vella said owner Ali Simaga wanted to end the purchase contract with the city so that the house could put the house up for sale again. at a higher price. The market value of the house has increased significantly since the initial agreement with the city.

“This is not a valid reason to end a real estate transaction,” Vella said at the hearing.

The dispute began shortly after the city struck a deal with the owners nearly two years ago to buy the house, so the house could be demolished and the historic tree could be preserved and displayed.

According to the court hearing, the Simagas argued that the city had not paid a required deposit of $ 2 on the purchase price of $ 780,000 at the time specified in the purchase contract. The Simaga felt that because of this, they had the right to cancel the deal.

“They say that without the payment of $ 2, there was no valid consideration for the buy-sell agreement and therefore was not enforceable,” Vella said.

But the judge said she did not believe, based on the evidence provided by the city, that the late payment amounted to a breach of contract.

Deposit accepted ‘without objection or reservation’

She also noted that when the $ 2 deposit payment was finally made, the owners accepted it “without objection or reservation,” and said the objection was first raised after the city started his request.

“When the injured party fails to raise a breach by the other contractual party as a fundamental breach in a timely manner, the court will ignore this factor in determining whether the breach was fundamental,” Vella said.

As such, the Simagas “lost the right to terminate the contract” on this basis, the judge said.

The city reached an agreement with Simaga in December 2019 to purchase the North York home for $ 780,000 with certain conditions, including that the community raise $ 400,000 within a year to finance the purchase and maintenance of the tree, according to an application filed in the municipal court in May.

The plan was to demolish the house and turn the property into a parkette to showcase the gigantic tree, the last remnant of the ancient oak forest that once covered the area.

Parkette would give the community access to the tree

“When you walk into the backyard and see the stem, the trunk of this tree, you realize you are looking at a miracle,” said neighbor Edith George, who campaigned to preserve the tree.

“By opening it [with the creation of the parkette] it gives us all a chance to understand our natural heritage, ”she added.

The tree, about 24 meters high, five meters in circumference and only a few meters from the house at 76 Coral Gable Drive, predates Confederation. Its branches extend ten meters in each direction, and its thick roots plunge deep underground.

On February 23, 2021, Simaga emailed the city to say that he expected the sale price to reflect the “market price” of the property, which he estimated had increased by 120 $ 000 to $ 900,000.

He initially bought the property for $ 520,000 in 2015, according to court documents.

Thursday’s verdict resulted from the city asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to order the full purchase and place title deed in its name.

Vella ordered the deal to be concluded by December 1, 2021, but said the parties were free to complete the deal before that date.

Simaga was unable to speak to CBC News, but family friend Sabi Ahsan spoke on his behalf, saying, “Mr. Simaga is obviously very disappointed with the decision.

Ahsan added that Simaga “did not understand that it would be necessary [the city] many years, and what would happen to the prices, “claiming that there was” no protection for him “.

Simaga intends to take further legal action, Ahsan said.

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