Last week, Pelham Town Hall was treated to a fine display of hypocrisy, courtesy of at least Councillors Haun and Hildebrandt. Haun in particular had earlier and quite crankily made a big deal out of not being told by staff that she was killing affordable housing—this in reference to Mountainview Homes’ proposed Park Place South development, in East Fonthill.
Just one small problem.
An easy review of council’s April 6 meeting, available in you-are-there High Definition on YouTube, fails to reveal any elected official asking Town staff about affordability or housing economics. How staff can be blamed for not answering questions not posed to them, one can only guess—or not guess, as it were.
At any rate, the Gang of Four, who had voted unilaterally on March 22 to change Mountainview’s townhouse development proposal, spoke to the item again on April 19, and indicated that they had experienced a change of heart. Now they understood, they said, that the back-to-back townhouses they had prohibited were effectively affordable by today’s stratospheric real estate pricing standards. By implication, all would be made right when the matter came back before them on May 3.
Fast forward to May 3—last Monday— and a staff report on the agenda, drafted in such a form as to allow council to undo its decision prohibiting the back-to-backs and to restore the developer’s original vision.
Readers will recall that the development contains three styles of townhouses, as well as single family detached homes, for a total of some 100 units, none of which would get built if council denied the application for subdivision. (The Haun-sharpened pitchforks pertain to just a single townhouse design.)
When presented with the opportunity to fix their own goal, the self-induced gut-punch, or the attack on affordable housing, as you may prefer (all are reasonable characterizations), the Gang of Four once again voted to kill the back-to-back townhouses and affordable units. Having been given two opportunities to approve these units, the group bolloxed it twice. This newspaper looks forward to hearing how this utter failure of leadership will be justified. None of the four councillors responded when asked for comment. We extend our sympathies to young couples and families trying to start out in Pelham. Presumably Welland beckons. (Don’t forget, we still have a $40 million dollar community centre to pay off, and that’s happening through property taxes.)
We extend our sympathies to young couples and families trying to start out in Pelham
The second vote was actually worse than the first, because if the words earlier spoken by Councillor Haun were true—that she blamed staff for not explaining the ramifications of her first vote—then obviously on May 3 there was a truly calculated decision among the Gang of Four to kill the affordable units.
The line between tragedy and comedy can be razor-thin, as seen in last Monday’s council recording (also on YouTube, still in HD). It’s hard to say whether the stunned faces of the Mayor, Councillor Wink, Councillor Olson, and much of the senior staff are the stuff of humor or pathos. Fools all of them—and us—for taking the Gang of Four at their word that their position would be reversed to allow for the less expensive units.
Worse, the vote occurred with no discussion—not a single peep, syllable, or grunt— which implies that the quartet may well have discussed their plan outside of the council process, out of public view, the very opposite of the transparency that each member campaigned on in 2018. Whether or not they voted in error the first time, they certainly knew what they were doing the second time. Common sense is once again sacrificed on the altar of petulant partisanship.
So, next steps.
It would seem that the site plan approval will have to come back for yet a third time, so that council can approve something. The Voice has learned that this file is in “purgatory,” essentially without status, as no actual decisions have been made, other than the fact that back-to-back townhomes, as seen in Grimsby, Lincoln, and St. Catharines, will play no role in whatever is developed—at least not until the appeals process concludes, an expensive undertaking to be funded by us hapless taxpayers, almost certainly to result in council’s decision being overturned. But that’s miles down the road.
Advocates for relatively affordable housing in a real estate market gone bonkers have no cause for optimism in the near term. Grandparents, hold on to that house for as long as you can, else you may be looking to downsize across the canal—if not in Fort Erie. ◆