Self-storage owner Mike Whaling, who operates Airport Mini Storage in the Mount Hope community of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, complained to city planners this week that illegal storage operations are infringing on his business and costing the municipality tax revenue. Whaling told officials storage businesses have launched on rural land disguised as hobby farms, according to the source. The alleged illegal operations are paying lower property taxes and charging customers less because they don’t have as much overhead, he argued.
"It really shouldn't be up to a neighbor to complain,” Whaling said during a recent planning-committee meeting. “It should be up to the city officers to notice when something is not right, and enforce the bylaws that are already in place."
Although bylaw director Marty Hazell said the city has been trying to target illegal businesses in the Mount Hope area for a year and a half, prosecution can be challenging without sufficient evidence. Hamilton officials have cited more than 24 people connected to illegal operations, but enforcement efforts have been mixed. Some illegal operators have since complied with bylaws, while others remain under investigation or are waiting to go before the court, Hazell told planners. A case can take up to two years before it’s heard in court, he said.
Whaling has urged the city to take a more aggressive approach toward illegal businesses since 2005. In addition to Mount Hope, he believes there are hundreds of unlawful operations in the Hamilton communities of Ancaster, Dundas and Flamborough. Taken together, Whaling told city officials they could be missing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue. “It just really irks you when you see that happening,” he said.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger agreed the city probably needs to do more to combat illegal businesses, even suggesting the city should consider hiring summer interns to look for possible violators, the source reported. He instructed city staff to report back later this year on any progress.
- The Hamilton Spectator: Illegal Rural Businesses Costing City Millions, Planning Committee Told