Council’s decision on Monday night to give further readings to Bylaws #422/425 is unfortunate on a number of fronts.
1. I disagree with consent agendas except for truly ‘housekeeping’ items.
The intent of a consent agenda is to streamline council business and save valuable staff/meeting time. It is NOT intended to replace discourse around the table.
The Mayor and CAO have considerable discretion in agenda setting, so consent agendas are an easy way to hide dust under the rug. Surely, after a hearing at which diverse views were stated, plus having received commentary from referral agencies, there would be a proper Council discussion of the points raised, and questions to the planner as to mitigations or alternatives.
2. It really does reflect ‘one set of rules for them, another for us.’
I would think any developer would be outraged that they have to go through any number of hoops while the municipality blanket rezones its own land with impunity, not even stipulating what is to be built. Make no mistake, the rezoning creates the greatest flexibility possible - to enhance the potential values of land sold, and to allow diverse uses without specifying them in advance. When it comes to the actual developments, there will be no requirement for further public input.
3. It makes a mockery of the central tenets of the OCP, the process of public consultation, and the entire previous planning efforts pertaining to Snug Cove. It potentially perverts the process and hierarchy by which the Islands Trust Executive committee reviews and either approves or denies the OCP changes, and determines compliance with the I.T. Policy Statement. Because the actual OCP changes look so benign on paper- e.g. adding ‘Village Civic’ to a designation, the Trust will have very little grounds on which to query them critically.
4. It erodes democracy on an island that has prided itself in civic involvement. Nothing like this ever happened before or under the Trust, nor after incorporation – at least not until the Adelaar Council passed the rezoning for parts of Community Lot 2 (in the vicinity of the school).
I asked Mayor Skeels about the triangle lot adjacent to Seniors’ Lane, and he said with undisguised glee how convenient it was that it was pre-zoned, and that the municipality could now entertain development proposals at will. They have now relaxed setbacks to further enhance the financial value of this land.
Doing the same for Lot 3 compounds the sin by a magnitude. Not many people really cared about a sliver of land below an embankment, but many people do care about a sizable chunk in the heart of the Cove, adjacent to Crippen, and with good coniferous forest cover, a history of park and cottage use, and subject to innumerable studies identifying it as the kingpin for Snug Cove, and by extension, the whole island.
Very clearly there are more values at stake than simply the best dollar return or to create a few parking spaces that could have happened on road allowance.
To me, this is a game changer gambit. That the vote was unanimous, and that the concerns were not debated, nor even the fire Hall portion hived off, indicates either a collective laziness or that there is something already in the works.
A note on process under the Adelaar Council. They convened what was known as the ‘Temporary Committee’, which met in camera for all but its first meeting, I recall, and presented its findings for Lot 2 to Council which were then acted upon. This was a highly dubious process (as committee members were not sworn in for confidentiality purposes).
As well, two Councillors, as we well know, had expressed an interest in developing the property and one actually led discussion (having by then resigned from Council) at the hearing.
This is the shaky ground on which the current Council now places its procedural protocols.