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municipal politics

Mayor Rob Ford at a press conferenceDeborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Mayor Rob Ford's bid to buy a parkette next to his home has taken a step forward.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority's executive committee decided Friday to study selling Mr. Ford the 250-square-metre parcel, something that would be virtually unprecedented if the TRCA eventually voted in its favour.

"I've been with the authority for more than 20 years," said Jim Dillane, the TRCA's director of finance and business services. "I can't remember one [case]where we've actually given over a piece of parkland."

Mr. Ford and his wife, Renata, want to purchase the irregularly shaped parcel beside their Etobicoke house so they can erect a perimeter security fence to protect their young children, according to their April 27 letter to the TRCA, which owns the city-managed land.

"It's a matter of security," said Ross Vaughan, the Fords' representative on the land issue. "All the years that the mayor lived there before he was mayor, there was never an issue. It's only been recently, as mayor, that problems have occurred."

Mr. Ford's interest in the parkland is what drew a Toronto Star reporter to the public property around Mr. Ford's Edenbridge Drive home this week. The mayor accused journalist Daniel Dale of "spying" on him, but Mr. Dale said he was simply checking out the land so he could describe it in his story.

The TRCA, which owns more than 16,000 hectares of land in the Greater Toronto Area, has occasionally sold slivers of parkland to private citizens who've unwittingly encroached on TRCA property by, for example, building a swimming pool that extends a foot or two past their property lines.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, the lone committee member to vote against studying the Fords' application, argued that selling the parkland would "open the floodgates" to every security-conscious homeowner whose property abuts TRCA land.

"It's better to tell the applicant right now we're not in the business of selling parkland," he told the committee. "And if anyone out of the 2.5 million people living in the city of Toronto should know that we don't sell parkland, it's this applicant."