Tomorrow, June 11, members of Toronto and East York Community Council will be considering an application from Olympic gold medalist Tessa Virtue and her Toronto Maple Leaf husband Morgan Rielly to paint their 1912 North Rosedale heritage home with white limewash.

Lobbyist and former chief of staff for Rob Ford, Amir Remtulla, has been working on behalf of the couple to have the application approved since mid-May, according to the City’s lobbyist registrar.

The council meeting will be the most recent development in a months-long back and forth between the couple and the City’s Heritage Department, who feel that the proposed alteration would compromise the historical significance of the Edwardian era Georgian-Revival style home.

“One of its most important attributes is its red brick masonry and its historical character and appearance is that of a building with unpainted masonry,” says a report for action from the Acting Senior Manager, Heritage Planning, Urban Design, City Planning. “Painting this masonry would neither maintain or enhance its architectural style or character. Nor would this comply with good conservation practice.”


As a designated home in the North Rosedale Heritage Conservation District (NRHCD), any alterations to the exterior of Virtue and Reilly’s residence at 135 Roxborough Drive requires permission from the Heritage Department under Section 42 (1) 1 of the Ontario Heritage Act. The home is also “C-rated,” meaning that “it is of contextual significance and contributes to the heritage character of the [Heritage Conservation District],” according to the report for action. Thus, the Heritage Department is interested in maintaining the NRHCD's "’qualities of heaviness and stolid permanence’ through the use of thick red brick and stone masonry with red brick predominating” — a physical and historical context within which 135 Roxborough exists and contributes to.

In their application, Virtue and Reilly defend their use of white paint, saying they wish to "address the unsightly discoloration" "variations in colour, texture, and conditions resulting from mismatched bricks, repairs, and patches" and to "elevate the House’s curb appeal.” But, citing the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Properties in Canada, the Heritage Department "only recommend(s) the application of breathable coatings to masonry 'as a last resort.'"

Issues first arose after Heritage Planning staff visited the site and reported unapproved alterations: “painting of the west façade of the house at 135 Roxborough Drive had commenced,” says the report for action.

Up until that point, relations between the star athletes and the Heritage Department had been smooth. On May 15, 2023, an initial building permit was issued approving alterations including “the construction of a single storey rear addition and a detached garage in the rear yard” and “a new front entrance door for which Heritage Planning granted approval,” according to the report.

Then, on September 7, 2023, a revised permit was issued, which included “new windows and the proposed front elevation included a note saying the brick was to be painted,” says the report. But staff maintain that they were not aware of the note when they cleared the permit. Even so, the building permit drawings did not include any references to the painting of masonry on the side walls, only the front, according to the report.

So when Heritage Planning staff arrived at the site to find a large swath of white paint on the home’s west facade, a report for action ensued and was issued on April 18, 2024, ahead of tomorrow's City Council meeting.

The report recommends a more gentle approach to improving the home’s aesthetic appeal involving “masonry repairs, repointing and brick cleaning,” providing “a more uniform appearance to the masonry while maintaining and enhancing the architectural style and character of the house.”

It also recommends that City Council refuse the proposed alteration, and if the owners appeal a refusal, that the appropriate City Staff be appointed to attend the Ontario Land Tribunal hearing to oppose the appeal.