Questions swirl around Mayor Applebaum and NDG land-flip deal
Published Wednesday, March 6, 2013 8:55PM EST
A high-rise seniors’ residence in Notre-Dame-de-Grace is at the centre of new questions about possible corruption in Mayor Michael Applebaum’s own borough.
Suspicion is swirling around the land on the corner of Cote-St.-Luc Rd and Decarie Blvd. that spiked from $1.85 million to $4.5 million in just four years while the borough was under Applebaum’s watch as borough mayor.
Applebaum again reiterated Wednesday that he is not being investigated by Quebec's anti-corruption squad.
He said while he knew the man who bought the land, he had nothing to do with who bought it or how it increased.
In 2002, part of the land - then a parking lot for a former orphanage - was considered for a new city hall for the borough of NDG-Cote-des-Neiges, but when it was deemed too small, that project was abandoned.
According to records, a year later - in October 2003 - it was sold by the Fondation Villa Notre Dame de Grace to a buyer for $1.85 million.
Buyer Lee Lalli had it parcelled into two lots, paying $1.8 million for most of the land and $50,000 for the corner lot.
Lalli originally sought to build a pharmacy on that corner lot, but in 2006, when local residents opposed that plan, he sold the $50,000 lot for $1.5 million to Summa Development, a company to which he gave a $1 million mortage and then received shares in.
A year and a half later, in 2007, the land was flipped for $4.5 million to a numbered company and the 12-storey Vista seniors’ home was built on a piece of land previously zoned "industrial."
Mayor Applebaum admitted Wednesday he knows Lee Lalli.
“Mr. Lee Lalli is someone I have spoken to on many occasions and the reason being he is a businessman in that area,” he said.
Applebaum once again denied any wrongdoing, however, after the deal came to light in media reports.
“I am not under investigation,” he said. “I have been collaborating with them and that I can continue to do my work as usual.”
Asked whether he allowed any zoning changes to the 12-storey building in a low-rise neighbourhood, Applebaum explained that in 2005, the central city took over zoning for land and he had no say in it.
“It conformed to all of the bylaws at that moment, so the city or the borough had no right to contest. The only thing that was looked at was the design and architectural materials for the design of this property,” he said.
It has been reported that Lalli outbid another developer, construction magnate Tony Magi, for the Vista land and that alleged Mafia kingpin Vito Rizzuto tried to broker a deal between the two when Lalli refused to let Magi in on the deal.
Lalli was later severely beaten, said reports, adding that he never reported it to police.
The mayor's office said after the beating, they were told Lalli was the victim of an extortion attempt.
They also said they never knew Lalli was involved with Rizzuto.
Lalli did not return calls placed by CTV Wednesday.