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LETTER: Sensible objections aren't NIMBYism

'The reality often is a planning application being recommended by planning staff that completely ignores some really basic OP and ZBs'

PelhamToday received the following reader letter in response to James Culic's column regarding development:

Oh dear! Praising one of James Culic’s Hot Takes didn’t last long!

I thought it very Doug Ford of him to blame NIMBYs for this housing shortage, the same excuse that all connected to the ever-growing developer industry continue to use with absolutely no rationale apart from the fact they are the easiest to blame without having a single argument to back up such claims.

Perhaps Culic could start by reading a few more contributions from this and other media outlets?

Following Ford’s now failed attempt to annex the Greenbelt to support his developer friends, at least several municipalities in Niagara were reported as having enough available residential development areas to meet their future housing needs, regardless.

And as for those fortunate enough to have planned on owning a house, and wanting to stay in it, perhaps to raise a family or just because they like the neighborhood, just as it is, it is possibly the biggest investment they will ever make. And yet James echoes Ford and calls them NIMBYs.

Why? Would you refuse them any option of questioning any planning application submitted by the planning staff, those same NIMBYs who actually employ and pay for their planning staff?

Of course! You mean all those principled, mandated public meetings for each proposed development? I’d almost forgotten them!

Not development but about budget meetings. You obviously didn’t bother reading local reports of specific public input being required by a council, for upcoming budget deliberations, first proposed in August? Guess what! Staff chose to defer that particular item without informing their council! Fancy that? And when they agreed to reinstate that item, they said that although it would be carried out, they would not be able to produce the report in time to include it as any part of the actual budget deliberations.

And you somehow think that planning staff are any more careful about what they choose to do?

You do know that planners are supposed to refer to silly things like Official Plans and Zoning Bylaws, don’t you? That would suggest that planning staff are required to initially refuse any planning application that does not comply with the existing OP and ZBs in place.

But they’ve found a better way! They are encouraged to embark on ‘pre-planning consultations’ with each developer which, apparently, entail choosing some innocuous ‘Minor Variances’, to amend the OP and ZBs, so that when an application is submitted to council it implies these ‘minor’ issues are the only thing preventing this much needed developments from going ahead.

"I thought it very Doug Ford of him to blame NIMBYs for this housing shortage"

The reality often is a planning application being recommended by planning staff that completely ignores some really basic OP and ZBs and one which the majority of bobbleheads on most councils will normally just approve of without question.

Oh! And all that public input?

When a group in any community do believe, ahead of time, that a proposed development is just not right for their community, based on provincial policy, regional and municipal OP and ZBs, their local council just may placate them with a Public Meeting, from time to time. These folks are not NIMBYS, just concerned citizens whose homes and neighborhoods are being threatened by bad planning. If the meeting is a success, then those same concerned citizens will all go home satisfied that both their politicians and their planning staff have actually listened to them, and accepted their concerns.

The reality is that the exact same planning application will appear at a future council meeting with planning staff recommending council approve it. This is the final time that any public input is considered, with any local taxpayer even attending the meeting being allowed their say, again, but already knowing that both their elected council and their planning staff had already decided that the application was already a ‘done deal’ in favor of the developer.

Another cute thing our councils do each year is that they appoint a Committee of Adjustment, consisting of any resident, property owner or taxpayer who chooses to apply.

So, basically those who are appointed represent their council where mainly minor planning applications are referred to them for consideration. Most usually end up with planning staff recommendations being supported.

But on the occasions when, for whatever reasons, a Committee of Adjustment chooses to oppose an application, and reject it, just guess what happens?

First, the council didn't even bother to ask the CoA they appointed to represent them, why did they rejected it? All they hear is from their planning staff who will already have advised the developer to refer the CoA decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal and appeal against it.

And surprise, surprise, like its corrupt predecessor, the OMB, dissolved for being totally biased towards any development and ruling in favor of the developers in over 95 percent of their hearings, the OLT does exactly the same, and is continuing to rule in favor of developers in over 90 percent of OLT Hearings.

And they are now carried out online and don’t bother with silly little things like actually inviting those CoA members to attend and explain why they turned it down. Similarly, the council who actually appointed that very CoA to represent them, only cares about doing what their planning staff and the developers want.

Any local citizen can apply to appear at these OLT Hearings, as long as they pay for it, and those who do will find they have no status as Expert Witnesses, so any ‘evidence’ they give will be completely ignored by an OLT Board only listening to the developer and his ‘Expert Witnesses’ and also the planner, who has absolutely no interest in the opinions of any council appointed CoA if they dare oppose the recommendations of planning staff.

I’ll just finish by saying that James actually made some fairly good points regarding these Traffic Management Studies. Very simple stuff, which one would think a professional planner could easily prepare on just a normal day at the office.

Not so fast. Planners, like all of our town hall staff, are so overworked (and underpaid?) they just don’t have time. So, whenever such a hearing is called the first thing our planners demand is consultants and more consultants. These same consultants, expert witnesses et al., all need lots of time to research the issues and a whole municipality of taxpayers to pay for their wisdom.

It isn’t a NIMBY problem, James, it’s an ever-growing army of bureaucrats, at every level of government, who are controlling more and more of our daily lives, in their totally selfish pursuit of a growing tax base to support their very comfortable lifestyles.

Why is there not a single story of budgets in Niagara Region at this budget time, asking that total and inclusive staff costs be highlighted as the biggest, and possibly the fastest growing, single cost, to us taxpayers, both municipality and regionally? Does no one in local media even care?

Andrew Watts