Dance school, center must co-exist: judge 

Crichton community center has legal right to occupancy in school building
by Paula Mccooey

The Ottawa Citizen

April 17, 2004

Ontario Superior Court Justice Colin McKinnon decided yesterday the Ottawa School of Dance and the Crichton Cultural Community Centre must continue to co-exist and refused to allow to the "divorce" the school has requested.

The marriage between the non-profit organizations was one that stemmed from a partnership forced by the city in 2001. It was a model for preserving closed downtown schools.

Funded with $250,000 in tax-payers' money, the partnership also ensured public access to the historic building a community resource.

But the dance school was tying to evict the Crichton Cultural Community Centre from its second-floor space in New Edinburgh's former Crichton Street elementary school and the cultural partners dispute landed them in court.

The community centre's access to the former school has been the subject of a long dispute.

Late last year, Ellen Goodman, co-chairwoman of the center, received a letter from the dance school's lawyer, Paul Lepose, giving the center until the end of December to leave because it owed the school money for taxes.

The dance school received official ownership of the first floor of the building, while the community center used the second floor for artists' groups and kept a room as the community center.

The dance school complained the center was not tax exempt, so the organization and artists were asked to start paying property taxes.

The city wanted the judge to give it power to let both occupants stay.

Judge McKinnon said the center should continue to "pay operating expenses" for the space it uses, including property taxes.

" It seems clear to me that the center enjoys a legal right to occupancy in the Crichton Street School," he said.

Councilor Jacques Légendre, in whose Rideau-Rockliffe ward the center is located, welcomed the judge's ruling.

And Jerry Bellomo, the city solicitor said: "The city looks forward to working with both parties to find a solution to this dispute that ensure continued community access."