"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Sunday 30 March 2008

Turgid Verbiage

I read the transcript from the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on the Westhill Golf Course development; all 211 pages. It cost almost $3 thousand dollars. I was particularly interested in the comments of the town's lawyer for reasons which may not be obvious but I cannot reveal because certain things must be kept secret to save the town harmless.

There was an exchange of emails between the Chief Administrator and the Mayor before the Hearing. In response to questions, the CAO informed the Mayor how much a transcript costs, that they are normally required by parties to the hearing but not always. They are not normally required for the public.

Average length of a transcript is 300 pages - cost is $2100. Usual time to produce a transcript is two weeks. If it is needed quicker, cost is between six and nine hundred dollars more. The Mayor gave the direction for a transcript in the shorter time.

We had a two page dissertation circulated by Sue Walmer as soon as the hearing was over. Ms. Walmer and the Mayor attended the hearing together and Walmer was appalled at the Chairman's lack of knowledge of what it was about.

"His bias," Ms. Walmer said "made me despair for the environment."

The Chairman had informed all present the function of the Board is to protect the rights of property owners. He said property owners should appreciate that. Ms. Walmer did not. Considering the hearing was about four property owners seeking to protect their rights by asking for something more than a plain old OMB hearing,(three weeks) I think the Chairman's point was well made.

Ms. Walmer was the Mayor's campaign manager. She organized the Coalition of Ratepayers for the purpose of the election. She continues to organize.

Anyway, I ploughed through the verbiage. Mr. Northey, lawyer for the opposing neighbours had most to say. Naturally enough because it was his motion. Mr. Beaman ,the town's lawyer. on the other hand had the least. He supported Mr. Northey's arguments and took issue with language about "teeth" of Mr. McQuaid who represented the developer. He also appeared to be urging the Chairman to accept a transcript. No doubt it would justify the expense.

The hearing lasted until 5.30 p.m. Last time I heard anything about legal fees, they were $600 an hour. I figure a rough estimate of legal costs for the day might be $5,400. Add travel time, preparation time and the cost of the transcript, our cost to be a party to that hearing would not likely be less that $10 thousand.

The motion was dismissed. The result would have been the same without our participation.. So once again, we are ten grand out with nothing to show for it. Zilch, Zero, Nada and Nil.

Last I checked, the town's share of the taxes from an average house in Aurora was about $700. The means the entire revenue for this year from mine and twelve other houses on my street went to pay for this exercise in futility.

A further Municipal Board Hearing is scheduled for April 7th. Three weeks have been allocated and it might take longer. There will be legal costs, staff time and expert witness costs.

I understand a joint board hearing,that's what was being requested, would have lasted seventeen weeks or longer. It would also have called for an army of experts to testify.

But wait, if we are going to be defending a refusal of the application, in the face of supportive evidence for the development from our staff,we may have to recruit a complete new team to support our refusal and refute our own staff reports. Wouldn't that be interesting? The potential cost simply boggles the mind.

Planning staff had been working for months maybe years on this proposal.They advised the developer as to what was possible. Serious work still needed to be done and time was growing short. Council's precipitate decision to refuse the application lwould have brought the work to a halt.

As a result, we will be at a considerable disadvantage at the Board Hearing starting on April 7th. Work that needed to be done to ensure this development is done right has not been completed. Hundreds of staff hours have already been expended.

This is the last parcel to be developed under transition status of the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan. It was being carefully shepherded by our staff, the Region and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Until council decided to cut all of them off at the knees.

An offsite orientation meeting at the beginning of this term, would have provided new councillors with a thorough briefing on the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. They would have learned about legal rights of property owners and the requirement to conform to more restrictive regulations to protect the Moraine.

They might have been able to recognize crass political opportunism when they saw it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog very much. You're better than the newspaper at keeping everybody informed.