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Reversal could provoke costly legal action

Pelham Town Council’s tenuous grasp of planning matters and residential development surfaced once again during their June 7 virtual meeting, with three members voting to kill official passage of a bylaw related to a subdivision development that had been approved at a previous meeting last month.

During their May 16 gathering, Councillors Lisa Haun, Bob Hildebrandt, and Ron Kore had objected to a staff report endorsing a new subdivision development south of Summersides Boulevard and east of Station Street based on the proposal that it include two new roadways, citing concerns by the potential developer of another parcel of land on the north side of Summersides.

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However, the potential developer does not actually own the land at issue, and the subdivision project has been underway for some two years, with repeated opportunities for public comment.

While the project passed 4-3 in May, last Tuesday the same trio of councillors, led by Lisa Haun, effectively killed the bylaw by voting against it, causing it to fail on the procedural rule of a tie (Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Stewart was absent).

Mayor Marvin Junkin and Councillors Wayne Olson and John Wink voted in favour.

Pelham Town Council meets virtually on Tuesday, June 7 2022. YOU TUBE/TOWN OF PELHAM

The last-minute reversal puts the Town in a disadvantaged position with the developer of the south side of Summersides, a situation which CAO David Cribbs warned would likely end in another loss for Pelham, at taxpayer expense, via the Ontario Land Tribunal. The Voice understands that a reasonable potential exists for an additional bad-faith damages claim.

However, Haun said her reasoning was based on apparent objections by the would-be developer of the north side of Summersides, who preferred seeing one road into the subdivision rather than two.

“I know this developer would like an opportunity to speak to council,” Haun said. “I guess the part that irks me the most is that it was suggested they weren’t kept in touch with [Pelham’s planning department].”

It was unclear what Haun was alluding to. She did not respond to a Voice request for comment inquiring about her possible personal or business connections to the developer, nor to a request that she clarify her overall rationale for voting against the approval that council had already granted.

Wink, meanwhile, reminded council that the two-roadway proposal had been built into the East Fonthill Secondary Plan almost a decade ago, and that the developer Haun was referring to was present at a public meeting on the updated proposal.

“Certainly, we do try to keep applicants and the public informed,” Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens said in response to Haun’s point. “The agendas are public, and at any time they could have let us know they wanted to speak…. It’s an unfortunate circumstance both ways.”

The agendas are public, and at any time they could have let us know they wanted to speak

Haun continued her defense of the other developer.

“It’s great that there’s an apology. But that doesn’t mean much to somebody who is trying to forge ahead with a development,” Haun said. “So, this is a very costly decision to this individual, irregardless.”

Cribbs suggested that to best avoid more legal bills, council move a motion to allow the other would-be developer to be present at the next meeting when the bylaw can be re-examined. However, stressing that this individual does not currently own the land he wishes to develop, Cribbs added that it was “an enormous difference” from a situation involving a landowner.

“I don’t know if the person will qualify as a delegate or not [under procedural rules],” the CAO said.

Haun again expressed concern for the would-be developer’s finances, saying he had made a “significant deposit, obviously non-refundable.”

In the end, Wink agreed to support the motion to defer, describing his vote as “reluctantly yes.”

Late last week the Voice learned that Town staff consulted both in-house and outside legal counsel to determine which least-bad options there were for navigating back out of the legal swamp created by Haun’s advocacy, a rescue process made all the more difficult due to Haun, Hildebrandt, Kore, and Stewart’s bloc rejection earlier this year of a modernized procedural bylaw.

Planning update

Niagara Region’s Official Plan policy consultant David Heyworth made a presentation to council, which provided general outlines of planning on the peninsula for the next 30 years. The presentation encouraged a “diverse range of dwelling types” for Niagara municipalities. Wink asked Heyward if the Region would incentivize municipalities to build more affordable housing, saying that Pelham’s “rental market is underdeveloped.”

Heyworth said he was not able to answer that.

Hildebrandt quizzed him on water and wastewater plans.

“I’m concerned that under-the-ground part of the plan is far more important than the above-the-ground part of the plan,” the Ward 3 councillor said.

Heyworth replied that Niagara Falls is currently being targeted for water/wastewater upgrades, but that as each municipality develops land, it’s their responsibility to work in concert with the Region on relevant infrastructure.

Mayor asks for ways to honour Haist

Junkin moved a motion for staff to report back on ways the Town could honour former Pelham Olympian Jane Haist, who died May 22 at the age of 73.

Haist competed in shot put and discus at the 1976 Summer Games, also winning medals at the Pan Am and Commonwealth Games after an All-American collegiate career at the University of Tennessee.

“I knew this lady during high school,” Junkin said. “She was a very humble, quiet person, but when she was on the field, she bared her teeth and was one heck of a competitor.”

Odds and ends

Council approved a new insurance policy for the Town’s volunteer firefighters, which Cribbs described as “better coverage for less money.”

Members also paid tribute to outgoing Deputy Treasurer Charlotte Tunikaitis, who is leaving for another position in the municipality of Bluewater, ON. Praising her work over the last seven years, Cribbs credited her by telling council, “tonight as one of the reports on the agenda indicates, we only have one reserve in the red, and there were about a dozen at the time [council was] elected.” The fund still in the red, land acquisition, remains so due to the Meridian Community Centre project.