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clean-up controversey

Image shows graffiti inside and outside of the former brickworks in Toronto that has undergone a huge renovation and revitalization project to become the new Evergreen Brickworks.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The City of Toronto and Evergreen, the organization that operates the Brick Works, have agreed to aim a bureaucratic magnifying glass at the decades-old graffiti painted on the walls of the heritage industrial site with an eye to determining which of the many daubings are historically or artistically relevant.

A municipal bylaw enforcement officer issued a summons last month against the Don Valley complex, which is run as a cultural and environmental hub, following a citizen complaint that came into the office of Mayor Rob Ford. The summons cited 13 alleged violations of the graffiti bylaw and demanded the owners remediate the problem by Jan. 26 or face fines and/or legal action.

Managers for the environmental not-for-profit met last week with officials from municipal licensing and standards and heritage protection services.

Yet Mr. Ford probably shouldn't expect the site - which has attracted $78-million in public and private funding - to be pressure-washed any time soon. Elizabeth Glibbery, the city's manager of investigative services for Toronto and East York, said heritage preservation officials will take up to 18 months to study the "cultural value" of the murals and tags. Their review, she added, will only land on the agenda of the Toronto and East York Community Council in 2012 or 2013.

Ms. Glibbery said there's "heightened concern" about graffiti in the wake of the Mayor's pledge to clean up the city, but acknowledged she wasn't aware of previous complaints or citations against the Brick Works.

The city designated the century-old industrial buildings in 2002. A 2008 heritage impact agreement, signed by Evergreen, the city and the Ontario Heritage Trust, notes the historic nature of the graffiti, which dates back to the 1980s. The agreement states that all three parties must agree to any alterations of the graffiti.

Evergreen plans to appeal the notification with backing from the city's cultural services division and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, which owns the entire site.

General manager David Stonehouse said his group agreed to scrub off some recent tags visible from Bayview Avenue. He has also invited several city and council officials to take a tour of the property and the newly renovated facilities later in February. "I would love to have the mayor come down to the site," he added.

Mr. Ford's spokeswoman Adrienne Batra said the mayor will be considering the invitation this week.

Special to The Globe and Mail