If you’ve been following along with the saga of the 'Boutique Hotel' proposed for Boucher St. W. and Stephen Vance’s most recent article you’ll know that the discussion reached an impasse at the last council meeting on July 23 and has been deferred until the upcoming meeting on September 10.
This will be an excellent opportunity to find out for yourself which of our council members truly value the rights of residents and businesses in the municipality and which ones do not.
100% of the many people to whom I have spoken over the past couple of months, residents, accommodation providers, law enforcement officers, and four members of council can see that this proposed development is clearly not what it is presented to be. It’s not a hotel by any definition. It’s at best an unsupervised Airbnb that would be allowed by the bylaw amendment to degenerate into something much worse. In the words of one of the local law enforcement officers I spoke to, “It’s going to be nothing but trouble”; “Like they have in Collingwood”.
It’s all painfully obvious, except to Councillor Keaveney and Mayor Clumpus who appeared to have been unable or unwilling to look past the glitter of 'Boutique Hotel' and consider the real nature of the proposed development and the negative impact on the local residents.
Despite all the facts and concerns that had been presented to them they had obviously made up their minds to support this development before the July 23 meeting. Why is that? Perhaps this is a good question to ask them at the upcoming All Candidates meetings.
Councillor Poetker was not present at the July 23 meeting but we fully expect that he will excuse himself from the discussions. The developer in the July 9 public meeting stated that he had been looking at local properties with him during the past year. There is clearly an established business relationship and a conflict of interest in this matter. Should Councillor Poetker, or Mayor Clumpus, require any clarification on this point we would suggest that they contact the Municipal Integrity Commissioner, as we have already done.
Faced with the scenario that the vote would have gone against the amendment if it been held during the meeting, a question was raised if the developer could appeal. In my opinion this was nothing more than a ploy to defer the decision. When questioned by council, the Director of Planning was not familiar with the appeal process.
We’ve now done the research for him.
The process for appeals that was previously governed by the Ontario Municipal Board changed in April 2018 and is now administered by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. In conversation with the LPAT it is clear that the process provides municipalities (and residents) much more control over planning and development. The days of a developer bullying his way through with a large legal fund are over.
Under the new standard of review for land use planning, appeals involving matters like official plans and zoning bylaws, the tribunal will only be able to overturn a matter if the tribunal determines that the municipal decision is inconsistent with, or does not conform to provincial policies and municipal plans. Using an appeal of a municipal council’s decision to pass a zoning bylaw amendment as an example, if the LPAT finds that the municipal decision aligns with provincial and local polices, the appeal will be dismissed and the municipal decision will be final.
Let’s follow the logic here – a request for amendment proves that the proposal was not in compliance with our zoning bylaws. We would have been completely within our rights to have rejected the application solely on that basis without recourse. We do, however, want to facilitate development if we can offer reasonable concessions, however we are under no obligation to offer any. A developer cannot win an appeal because we do not agree to bend our rules enough to suit their expectations however a resident can if the municipality did not follow the rules.
The proposed amendment allows for the construction of a 'Boutique Hotel' when it clearly isn’t any sort of hotel, motel, inn, etc. It then allows for the potential of permanent occupancy that would fall under a completely different set of bylaws and planning considerations. It is clear that the proposed amendment does not comply with the municipality’s zoning regulations and that a decision by LPAT would very definitely be in favour of the residents. We’re prepared to follow up on this if necessary.
The report from the planning department is very heavily biased in favour of the development with many significant concessions. I get it; we do not want to turn away development but we do need to make sure that it’s in the best interest of residents. The planner’s lame excuse, “It could be something worse”, proves our point that the zoning is not consistent with the existing residential character of the neighbourhood and needs to be reviewed.
I’m not a planner but in my opinion, based on my experience as a Professional Engineer, the planning report is so flawed that it would not stand up to a peer review or a LPAT hearing. I’m prepared to pay to have this done, if necessary.
Before council proceeds any further the logical steps that need to be taken are:
Review the current zoning of the property. It is clearly incompatible with the zoning of the adjacent properties and the historic and current use of the property in question.
Establish bylaws for Airbnbs – the current motel and B&B operators are operating under municipal bylaws and this needs to be applied fairly to all temporary stay accommodations.
In my opinion the developer has shown great disrespect for our council and residents by presenting a proposal under false pretenses and by refusing to provide the more detailed site plan that council requested. Council needs to stand up for the rights of the local residents and businesses and ensure that development is of the right type and in the right place.
Actions speak louder than words. September 10th is your opportunity to see your elected representatives in action.
Barry Altman, Meaford