Finally. A little excitement at Thorold City Council during the only meeting in August. Stuff gets done, but the wheels of government grind exceeding slow, and it can be a challenge to wake stay awake at times.
This wasn’t an outright insurrection, mind you. In fact, everyone was reasonably well-behaved, with the worst prompting several warnings from Mayor Luciani to refrain from applause, but it’s been a while since the Council chambers have been full to overflowing with upset people. While it isn’t great in itself that people are upset, it was good to see a room full of people invested in the governance process.What made them upset enough to come out to Thorold City Council to make themselves heard? I guess some would call it the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) factor, and there was some of that, but there was also some real concern about public safety and, as always, the issue of students.
As is often the case, the concern arose from a couple of public meetings regarding applications to build more houses. There was also one about the Four Points by Sheraton being closed down as a hotel and converted into student housing, with most of the suites becoming two-bedroom, but some three- and four-bedroom student rental units, but this excited only a few Councillors, who bemoaned the loss of the accommodation units and a woman who was against anything at all that would entice students to come to Thorold.
Oh yes. There was also a public meeting for the change of use for the LifeLabs building, whose new owners want to add a medical centre and pharmacy. Nary a comment on this one.
For the most part, it was the subdivision development public meetings that drew the public: new developments in the urban area, one of $450,000 condo townhouses on Richmond where the Holy Rosary portables used to be, and a high-density development on Decew Road at the corner of Beaverdams, right behind Keefer Road.
Rather than get into the arguments presented, which I’m sure will be covered by the regular press, I thought I’d highlight the things that Councillors can and cannot take into account when making a future decision. I’ll admit that I’ve used some of the same unallowable arguments in the past as I heard Tuesday night, but I learned the hard way. While Councillors may demonstrate sympathy to your plight, they have rules – more rules than you might imagine.
First, the things they can take into account:
- Accepted planning principles and legislation, which includes a huge array of regulations and the airy-fairy notions of provincial politicians;
- Any other legislation from either the Province or the feds, since all take precedence over municipal law;
- The City’s Master Plan, which mostly consists of elements which are contained in points 1. and 2;
- Safety withing what can be regarded as reasonable. Now, reasonable is in the eye of the beholder, but generally, traffic safety has to be within provincial warrants, which are a lot tougher than Thorold’s have been when it comes to all-way stops and such; and, way down the list,
- Thorold’s own by-laws.
What the Councillors can’t take into account, as much as they might like to and sympathize:
- Who may buy or live in a dwelling and, therefore, whether to allow a building application. All they can legally do is make sure they pay their taxes and obey the by-laws, which Thorold doesn’t really have the manpower to enforce properly. That, however, is the City’s (and the neighbourhood’s) problem, not the developer’s;
- Enjoyment of bunny rabbits, deer, wild turkeys, or any other wildlife;
- Your view. If that’s why you’re buying, add this to the long list of things a home buyer should ask about before buying – what is the zoning and status of the land between you and view which, in many cases, was approved for a subdvision long before;
- Promises to withhold your vote in the next election.
It’s a shame, but most people’s reasons for stopping a development won’t fly at the OMB. Some of these things might even affect the resale value of your property, but that isn’t an allowable yardstick as far as the Province of Ontario is concerned. That’s what, in the end, Council has to base its decisions upon. If your argument was from the second set of points, the best you can really hope for is some sympathetic accommodation by the developer.