Ward Councillor has to deal with numerous views on complex issues and then try to please everyone.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

January 8th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is often a high degree of tension between a ward Councillor and those who are both active and passionate about their community.

With almost every ward having a new council member there is bound to be some friction between the residents who were close to abused by the previous council and the new council member who is still learning the ropes.

National development Plains Rd Bingo hall

Greg Woodruff said he thinks the public input was sadly lacking on the 92 Plains Road development application – Ward Councillor doesn’t see it quite that way.

Last week Greg Woodruff, a former candidate for the Regional Chair and for the office of Mayor in 2018, wrote an opinion piece in which he set out his concerns with the practice some developers have gotten into the practice of taking their applications to LPAT as fast as they can. His Opinion piece is linked at the bottom of this piece.

Kelvin Galbraith responded to several questions the Gazette put to him with the following:  “As is the case with the 92 Plains Road site and other similar developments that have gone to LPAT, the public consultation and input has been used to form the final application that is being considered by staff and LPAT.

“The fact that some of the public’s input was not considered is usually because of a difference of opinion or that the planning rational by our professional planning staff could not support the request. Should the public have new information to form opposition to the development, they would have the opportunity to become a participant in the LPAT hearing.

Galbraith at King Paving

Kelven Galbraith had a solid handle on what the people of Aldershot were looking for – they don’t all agree with each other which puts him in an awkward spot from time to time,.

“At a settlement hearing, staff are not there to defend residents or participants. Planning staff have contributed to the settlement agreement and by this time it has been also endorsed by council so opposing the settlement at this stage would not make sense.”
Galbraith adds that: “There is a new pre-application process that adds another layer of public engagement when it comes to development applications. I would argue that this improves public input opportunities and assists with the tight timelines that we are now facing and hopefully prevents more applications from being appealed for lack of decision before the deadline.

“At some point in a development application a decision needs to be made. There will always be some opposition but we need to make decisions as staff and council that are best for the community. Much work and expense of the taxpayer are afforded to files that go the LPAT route. Negotiating a settlement as opposed to taking our chances with an adjudicator, allows our staff to offer their professional planning rational and come to some conclusion of the file and not prolong further expense. “

Galbraith points out that he is “not sure how the old council worked but I can say that I have offered a fresh set of eyes on every situation that I have encountered. Development is going to occur and Aldershot is seeing lots of interest and activity surrounding the Go station and Plains road. Many that I speak to in the community do not want empty lots, strip clubs and motels that currently hinder the success of our main street. I feel we are in an awkward period of transition between our old highway and a new urban strip of vibrancy with successful businesses and people living close to the amenities.”

Related Opinion piece
Woodruff on LPAT hearings: they are a total fraud.

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12 comments to Ward Councillor has to deal with numerous views on complex issues and then try to please everyone.

  • Roland Tanner

    I’m certainly not unreservedly endorsing everything councillor Galbraith says, but in one regard he is dead right: you cannot criticize staff for not opposing their own settlement. To do so is simply to illustrate your own ignorance of the legal procedure.

    If staff have been ordered to settle by Council THEY MUST SETTLE. Any argument is then with the councillors who voted to settle, not staff.

    If Greg Woodruff worked with other community groups more and was less set on belabouring his own high opinion of his abilities, it might be better for all involved, and be a better route to achieve his obvious political ambitions. Ill-informed armchair pontificating is not what we need. Burlington has too many self-appointed “geniuses” on council already.

    • Tom Muir

      Rolland, I think you have not done enough homework on the context of any staff criticism in this matter.

      My criticism is that as supposedly independent professional planners, members of OPPI, only recognized experts at LPAT hearings, with a code of ethics, including full disclosure, they should be called on to defend the settlement with planning arguments in the settlement hearing.

      It may be that THEY MUST SETTLE, but I want planning rationale to be visible, and it is not. What you are justifying is a fast and loose doing of anything goes, in camera, with no explanation needed.

      In none of the appeal settlements being talked about by me, not one of them had any transparency or accountability of staff planning rationale – there were no staff recommendation reports for public process of delegations, and votes.

      My problem is what is happening when this transparency and accountability is absent, and for lack of decision, it goes straight to LPAT. Then there is no public discussion and decisions are made in secret. That was one of my points in my comment concerning how Councilor Galbraith has acted in this matter.

      All the staff are doing in their silence is following orders from above, writing what they are told to write, and being mute, and taken to a logical endpoint, this can open a door to possible favoritism and doing whatever someone wants done.

      That’s what is happening.

      Finally, I would be careful in your attacks on Greg. It is not fair to do this, and to try to impute motives to him. And for sure it is not a flattering reflection for yourself to project. I’ve noticed this tendency before and I have learned that what we don’t need for sure is people going around attacking other people in public.

    • I think you missed the point Roland.

      I am not blaming the staff for staying quiet at the meeting. I’m pointing out how unrepresented the public is in what gets built.

      As you know, when an application goes over the deadline, it becomes a “legal matter.” It’s all in-camera; the public has no idea what is going on. Can we agree applications timing out with no planning report from staff and being settled in secret is a problem?

      The PL180373 LPAT case that Tom was in settles the idea the “residents” can affect an LPAT hearing. You can’t without a land-use planner – they ignore you. Can we agree this is a big problem as well?

      Development after development is going public meetings->developer application->timeout->LPAT appeal->settled in secret->LPAT settlement hearing. I don’t see resident feedback being incorporated anywhere in these approved developments. They seem to be almost exactly what the developer proposed with trivial modifications. It seems a long way from “community lead development” to me. Do you agree this is a problem?

      I’m not sure where the animosity comes in for other groups and residents, all trying to get developments that enhance the community.

  • david barker

    In my first comment in relation to this opinion piece I incorrectly attributed to Mr. Muir the statements that I was challenging and calling into question. Those statements were in fact made by Mr. Woodruff not by Mr. Muir. I thank Mr. Muir for bring this error to my attention.

    I unreservedly apologize to Mr. Muir and ask that he accept my apology. The irony, of course, is in calling for writers and publishers to get their facts right, I got mine wrong.

  • Tom Muir

    I don’t believe that Councilor Galbraith personally wrote what he sent in response to the Gazette questions. It reads like it came from staff to coverup for what the real results of what is going on are, and to provide more refuge for the Councilor.

    I think that an in person or live phone interview would be more appropriate to see how on top of things and forthcoming he really is. Instead, the Councillor gets a softball questionnaire in advance to answer.

    His voting record on development is what really explains what is happening. I think it’s time for a little transparency and accountability for the Ward 1 Councilor on his development matters track record.

    In his first vote related to development in Ward 1 he voted to not support the request of residents asking the new Council to take back a settlement agreement for a development appeal to LPAT at 2100 Brant St. This appeal came about as the of a failure to decide by staff on amendments needed by the application.

    There was no staff recommendation report for residents to see transparency and accountability, the decision to settle was made in secret, and all public due process ceased as it went to LPAT and city legal, and out of public planning discussion. This appeal is still outstanding, but Mr. Galbraith has already shown that he supports the developer. I expect there will be another settlement proposal.

    When asked to explain his vote against residents, he refused to answer citing the refuge of the in camera legal confidentiality. He said that he would ask legal about this, but he never replied. There was none of the discussion with him that he claims.

    The development at 92 Plains, cited in the Gazette article, was the same story. The developer was given a free appeal pass because city planning did not write a recommendation report to share their decision views with the public and did not decide by the deadline on amendments requested. Therefore, there was no further due public process, with a presentation of the staff report to Council Committee, public delegations and discussion, then another report to Council, more public delegations and vote.

    All the transparency and accountability and engagement that Mr. Galbraith claims exists once again went up in smoke. This discussion and exchange about staff opinion with the public, and him, that he claims happens all the time, never happened.

    Subsequently, at another in camera meeting on this development Mr Galbraith moved a motion to approve another settlement agreement with the 92 Plains Rd developer. It basically gave the developer what he wanted and more. I appeared at this Hearing as a Participant and gave my evidence so I have direct knowledge of what goes on in this context and the role and function of LPAT. The idea that Mr. Galbraith gives that residents evidence and opinion matter in these situation is absurd. The opinion piece of Greg Woodruff published here in the Gazette referred to in this story provides some insight.

    Once again, asking him for his reasoning and failure to support the residents in the surrounding low density neighborhood, he once again sought refuge in the confidentiality surrounding the basis of the in camera settlement agreement.

    More recently, in another appeal given away to the same developer as it 2100 Brant St, Mr. Galbraith seconded a motion for another settlement agreement at 484-490 Plains Rd, (at the former Bingo Parlor site). This agreement basically gives the developer what they want and more, and beyond what the existing OP permits and even what the adopted OP suggests.

    I was granted Participant status in this appeal Hearing, which is being held January 21, and have provided my witness statement and evidence to LPAT, the City, and the developer, on this there.

    Again, there was no staff recommendation report, no public due process at Committee and Council, and no more public delegations and discussion. All the engagement and discussion that Mr. Galbraith claims to exist never happened. Once again, the in camera agreement was used by Mr Galbraith to take refuge in so as to avoid explanation of his actions.

    More broadly, Mr Galbraith did not vote to support the Interim Control By-Law for Downtown. I wrote him and asked if he would consider a similar measure for Aldershot and Plains Rd., as it was undergoing development pressures, and he wrote me back that he would not support or raise such a measure at city planning or Council.

    And continuing the pattern, the 1085 Clearview proposal was refused by staff and then appealed. It’s now off-line the public planning process. I believe staff, in their refusal, and I said this in a written delegation, gave the developer a great basis for the appeal. This looks to be another candidate for a settlement agreement proposal crafted in camera. Councilor Galbraith lives very close to the application site and declared a conflict of interest, so we once again have no representation.

    Further, Mr Galbraith is on the record in support of the Amica application on Northshore, across from Jo Brant hospital. That application has also been appealed due to the once again failure by the city and planning staff to issue a recommendation report and make a decision in the prescribed timeline.

    I won’t go into details, but there are several more candidates on Plains Rd. in early stages of process for this model for taking development applications off-line the due public planning process and into the LPAT decision model that is in camera at legal. Residents then have no say in settlement agreements arrived at in secret. The participant status at LPAT has been reduced to essentially irrelevant in practice.

    It appears my fears, shared by others, are coming to pass. Since that past time I have described, with the appeals and settlement agreements so far on Plains Rd, there are preapplication proposals on record for at least two 10 story builds within 0.4 meters of the existing single family residential neighborhood right next door to the south. The existing OP permits mandatory medium density with 3 story limit, and the adopted OP suggests 2 to 6 storeys maximum.

    And there are others Downtown in appeal; at 419 Brant St in addition to Amica

    Not so far along elsewhere are several applications sprinkled around that are in various stages of process and all look to be candidates for LPAT. They are paused in process by the ICBL, but not paused in developer intent. The Downtown planning process yielded two concept options that don’t change anything, but in fact provide more cement to bake the problem in.

    It seems to me that this is what Planning in Burlington has come to – planning for developer appeals so that the public planning process and decision-making is moved to LPAT, out of reach of citizens and immediate actions and public control by Council, automatically downloaded to legal, no longer led by Planning, and so on and so on.

    My submission to 484 to 490 Plains Rd shows the settlement agreement is proceeding like the model I describe. The city sets up the appeal, it goes to legal, public planning process ends before even a fully legal statutory meeting, there is no staff recommendation report for transparency and accountability, it all takes place in camera where a settlement agreement is made, it agrees to give the developer basically what they want by fiddling with the by-laws, it’s crafted in camera, there may be no Hearing witnesses for the appellant and it looks like none for the City (like at 92 Plains), and the rest of the story goes on to the same arrangement and conclusion as far as I can see from this 92 Plains Rd decision.

    I am not optimistic at all with how Councilor Galbraith or the City is going represent residents in this situation, no matter what words staff give him. From what I can testify to, it will not be for the benefit of the community.

    Not a surprise by any means to me, and I know of others. There is a pattern that is quite evident here.

  • david barker

    In his opinion piece, Mr Muir states:-

    “Because of the structure and process used by LPAT only people with accepted professional designations can give testimony. Staff have those designations. The developers have planners with the required designations. Staff chooses to be mute so the developer’s “land use planner” is then the only “planner” presenting evidence.”

    On reviewing the LPAT website I find:-

    “If you do not share your views, either by oral presentation at a public meeting or by written submission prior to council’s decision on official plan or zoning bylaw amendments, or plans of subdivision, you do not qualify to appeal such matters to the LPAT.”

    I am no expert and I might be completely incorrect in my reading and interpretation of the LPAT site so I stand to be corrected. It would seem though that Mr. Woodruff’s expert opinion piece may not be overly accurate.

    To reiterate, if one wishes to participate in a proceding at LPAT, one must have previously participated in the process leading up to the LPAT proceding. The is no stated requirement that in order to participate one must hold a professional designation.

    When writing or publishing an opinion piece it is vitally important to ensure “facts” presented are indeed real facts. Please no Kelly Anne Conway “alternative facts”. Readers read these pieces written by people portrayed as either “experts” or at least persons knowledgeable in the subject and take what is written as being gospel.

    Woodruff, as a former candidate for the Regional Chair and for the office of Mayor in 2018 should be acquainted with the facts. It appears he is not. As Councilor Galbraith has clearly and correctly expressed, staff and Council will not always be able to b.e in agreement with each and every resident’s or community group’s position as respects a particular development. But I am confident staff and definitely Council will take all expressed opinions and positions into consideration when making a decision.

    Mr Woodruff and Mr Muir have both questioned why City staff were silent at the specific LPAT proceding referenced. Again as Councilor Galbraith stated, the City and developer had previously come to an agreement. So it would be inappropriate for the City to then argue against the agreement it has agreed to enter into. But that does not stop any resident or organization, which had previously participated in the process, from presenting arguments against the agreement..

    FACTS PLEASE, FACTS.

    • Gary Scobie

      David, I think you may be miss-construing Greg’s argument on one key point. He didn’t say anyone who was not a “planner” could not attend an LPAT hearing as a participant. As you quote from the LPAT site, you have to have demonstrated a previous interest in the matter in question in order to register as a participant at an appeal. Any citizen can do so, without being a professional planner. I’ve done it, as have others.

      Greg’s (and Tom’s) point, and it is valid from my experience, is that you appear as a ‘lesser’ individual than the commissioner, lawyers and planners in the room, and you are generally treated as such. You can submit in writing, but you cannot provide an “expert” opinion on anything because you aren’t one. You cannot testify, you are lucky if you are allowed to speak at all. Your written words are all that you have and you have no idea (well, you actually do have some idea) whether any of the experts there are going to give your submission the time of day because you are only a spectator once you get in that room. It’s actually worse than delegating at Council, where you at least might get a question and have some ensuing discussion.

      • david barker

        I came across this on the Ontario Provincial website when seeking information on LPAT.

        https://www.ontario.ca/document/citizens-guide-land-use-planning/local-planning-appeal-tribunal#section-2

        and specifically the section that reads:+

        “Why you should participate in the land use planning process

        People can effectively express their individual or group interest in a planning matter by participating early in the process. This is important because it offers an opportunity for information exchange, especially if there are conflicting perspectives. Typically, municipal councils attempt to deal with concerns or disputes before making decisions on planning matters.

        Alternative dispute resolution techniques can be used by a municipal council in resolving the matter locally and avoiding an appeal to the LPAT.

        If you do not share your views, either by oral presentation at a public meeting or by written submission prior to council’s decision on official plan or zoning bylaw amendments, or plans of subdivision, you do not qualify to appeal such matters to the LPAT.

        While some planning matters, such as consent or minor variance applications, do not specifically require that you participate in the process in order to appeal, the LPAT has the power to dismiss an appeal without holding a hearing if the person or public body that launches an appeal has not made oral and/or written submissions before municipal council makes a decision.

        Consent, site plan and minor variance appeals may not always be dealt with by the LPAT. Instead, municipalities that meet certain minimum requirements may establish their own appeal board, called a “local appeal body”, to hear consent, minor variance, and/or site plan appeals. For example, the City of Toronto has established the Toronto Local Appeal Body. Contact your municipality to determine the appropriate appeal body for your area.”

        Gary, is this a potential avenue for either Burlington or Halton Region to pursue? Could we have our own LPAT comprised of qualified residents of the city or region?

        • Gary Scobie

          Good point at the end of your post, David. Didn’t know an alternative existed. If we can get the LPAT off our case (pun intended) in the downtown, it may be worth pursuing. Thanks for the research and sharing it with citizens.

        • I assure you Dave I am not only aware of the facts, but cursed with the knowledge of them.

          PL180373:
          “[15] Based on the uncontradicted opinion evidence of Mr. Palumbo, the Tribunal finds
          that the proposed Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment are each
          consistent with the PPS, conform with the Growth Plan, the Halton Region Official Plan
          and the City’s Official Plan.”

          Even though Tom gave extensive “contradiction” written and verbal of “Mr. Palumbo” opinion evidence. The tribunal does not allow “non-planers” to to submit what is “good planning.

          Again. The tribunal is not refuting what Tom said as a resident. It’s simply deciding on the basis of that “Mr Palumbo” was not contradicted by a planner.

          Thus the public has no say at LPAT hearings

  • Penny Hersh

    I have to question Councillor Galbraith ” That the fact that some of the public’s input was not considered because of a difference of opinion or the planning rationale by our professional planning staff could not support the request”, and “There will always be some opposition but we need to make decisions as staff and council that are best for the community”.

    Councillor Galbraith, the other councillors, need to remember that they were elected by the residents to do what is right for them, not necessarily what staff or they personally think what is best for the community.

    Below is a portion of an email ECoB received and would like to know if the Councillors are aware of what staff are doing with regard to development around the Go Station. If density does not occur there – then where?

    Staff seem to be protecting the area around the Go Station where intensification makes sense and sacrificing the downtown core and the Lakefront. No wonder residents question decisions made by the Planning Department and ultimately Council.

    “We are the owners of the former Holland Park Garden Centre at Fairview and Drury.

    We have concerns with the zoning by-law being put forward on our lands that is restricting heights and imposing some additional requirements and restrictions that will preclude redevelopment of the site, and all the lands surrounding the GO Station.

    By precluding development near the GO Station, developers in the downtown will have a stronger planning argument for increased heights there, as the downtown is a Provincially designated Urban Growth Centre with greater density targets than the Major Transit Station Area.

    Our thoughts were that staff would recommend that the density be pushed to the Burlington GO area to achieve the population and unit targets set out by the Province and Region. Once those targets are met, the downtown could be preserved. In fact, we had hoped that there would be some mention of lobbying the Province to move the Urban Growth Centre Designation to the Burlington GO area. However, the complete opposite is being proposed by staff.

    As a registered professional planner, I’m am left baffled by the Dillon report and even more so by the staff report. ”

    RESIDENTS ARE BAFFLED AS WELL BY THE DILLON REPORT.

  • Claudette Mancini

    Plains Road may be the main street of Aldershot, and folks there may be able to help decide what goes where, but how about the “orphan” end of the Aldershot community bordered by Fairview, Maple Avenue and North Shore Blvd. ending at the QEW ramp? Do we get equal rights???

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