Pubdate: Thu, 09 Aug 2012
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 The Windsor Star
Author: Trevor Wilhelm


Large home empty since police raid

The vacant house was a constant reminder of how a drug trafficker set
up a massive marijuana grow-op right under their noses.

So some residents from an upscale LaSalle neighbourhood joined forces
to buy the house at 6645 St. Michaels Dr. and, on Wednesday, had it
demolished. The large, brick home had been empty since police raided
it in November and seized $1.3 million worth of marijuana.

"Given that it was a grow-op, at the end of the day we'd be better
served to have it demolished and share the lot between us," said Terry
Hermiston, one of two neighbours who bought and destroyed the house.
"It would have taken a ton of work to rehabilitate it; financially it
seemed to make more sense to demolish."

Hermiston, who lives on one side of the house, said he bought it with
the neighbour on the other side. They plan to share the now-vacant

The neighbours and the real estate agent who sold the house wouldn't
discuss what it cost, but The Star has learned it sold for $135,100.
About 15 months earlier, it sold for $250,000.

Officers with the Provincial Anti-Violence Initiative Strategy raided
the house in late November after receiving a tip.

Police said they found more than 1,300 marijuana plants worth $1.3
million in the basement. A number of concrete blocks had been removed
from the basement wall to get access to hydro lines and bypass the

Officers also seized grow-op equipment, including 52 electrical
transformers and dozens of high-pressure 1,000-watt sodium lights.

The house owner was charged with production of a controlled substance,
possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking,
possession of a controlled substance, diverting or consuming
electricity and theft over $5,000. Police couldn't be reached
Wednesday to say what happened with the case.

Police said shortly after the raid that a man moved from the Toronto
area in March 2011 to set up the growop. They said he bought the home
in LaSalle for the sole purpose of using it as a grow-op, while living
on Brock Street in Windsor.

At the time of the bust, investigators said cheap real estate and
police crackdowns in places like Toronto were pushing drug traffickers
into the Windsor area.

Gary McLeod of Lavin Realty, who sold the home in June, agreed real
estate prices would likely be an attraction for criminals.

But he's still surprised at some of the tony neighbourhoods they are
choosing. St. Michaels is lined with many homes worth $500,000 and

McLeod also recently sold another former grow-op house, on Major
Street in Puce. He didn't want to discuss prices on either of the
grow-op homes but The Star has learned the Puce house, which went for
$293,000 a year and a half ago, recently sold for $170,000.

"Then the one on Major Street was the nicest one on the street," he

The St. Michaels situation was also unusual, he said, because it was
10 feet from the homes on either side.

"It wasn't isolated at all," said McLeod.

He said that since a buyer can't get insurance on a house that was a
growop, a mortgage is out of the question. That means paying cash.

"If you wanted to bring it back to normal, you have to remediate the
house," said McLeod. "You have to take out - because there has been
mould and stuff like that in the house - all the insulation, all the
drywall. Then you have to have it sprayed down with the anti-mould

After that, he said, you have to hire a company to do an air test in
the house to ensure it's safe.

"Then the hydro has been bypassed, so you have to have the Ontario
Safety Electrical Authority come in and bring the hydro back," said

None of that was necessary with the St. Michaels house. The new owners
hired a company Wednesday to bring in a large excavator and knock it

"We had no idea it was going on," Hermiston said of the grow-op. "It's
definitely something you don't expect in any neighbourhood. It's
pretty covert so you certainly don't know what's going on until the
police arrive and seize it.

"You learn more about it after you realize it's occurred, and you hear
about the risks associated with living beside that type of operation.
Certainly something we're glad that's not going to be in the
neighbourhood any longer."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt