From Queen's Park: Decisions Have Consequences

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

The Review invited two of Flamborough's elected representatives to weigh in on the history and future of development in Waterdown.

Here's what MPP Ted McMeekin had to say.

* * *

The Flamborough Review has asked me to offer some reflection on the explosive residential and commercial growth projected for the Waterdown area. Case in point - every week we read about new pressures on our school system, the pending arrival of 'big box' commercial centres, concern about sewage and water and plans to build new roadways or widen existing ones like Waterdown Road and Hwy. 6.

History is important. Municipal planning is done by municipal councils in accordance with the Planning Act. Every municipality is required to have an Official Plan. This plan is amended from time to time to reflect changing circumstances and ensure effective and co-ordinated infrastructure planning. In the previous two-tier Regional government arrangement, the Region's Official Plan, by law, took precedence over area planning.

In addition to the Planning Act, certain provincial Boards and Commissions are in place to protect communities against procedural planning errors and, when necessary, to adjudicate disputes. Two such bodies are the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ontario Environment Board.

Several years ago, decisions were taken to approve massive residential growth into an expanded Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, concern was expressed about the growth desired by developers, projected timelines for that growth and the consequences, both intended and otherwise, that might result.

While the Town of Flamborough supported some residential expansion, caution was taken to ensure 'smart', phased-in growth. Flamborough's caution was not shared by the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth who believed much of the region's new growth should occur in the Waterdown area.

Years later, I still remember the meeting of the Region's Economic and Development Committee which voted 7 to 2 (with both Deputy Mayor Dave Braden and I in opposition) to approve changes that would result in a more extensive expansion of the Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, I made the observation to the seven former City of Hamilton councillors who sat on this committee, all of whom had voted in favour of the more intensive and rapid growth for Waterdown, "that not one of you could go out to the parking lot, start your car and actually drive to the site of the development you have just approved".

Official Plan Amendment (OP28) was endorsed by the Region. Almost immediately, this Amendment was appealed to a Joint OMB/OEB Board. The Joint Board hearings were lengthy, complex and costly. In the end, the Joint Board endorsed the expanded OP28 plans, subject to four specific conditions:

The adequate provision of water and sewer infrastructure;

The provision of an adequate transportation network capable of servicing the expanded area;

The ability to fund the above two objectives and finally

That all of the above be completed to the satisfaction of the Town of Flamborough.

The imposition of 'conditions' was appropriate and necessary. In fact, we were fortunate that the Joint Board had such foresight in placing conditions on growth, as it is these conditions which today provide us with some hope that we may yet get things right.

As fate would have it, condition #4 became meaningless with the subsequent amalgamation of Hamilton and the other five area municipalities into the new City of Hamilton. The other three conditions continue to apply.

There were several objections to the decision of the Joint Board and the report of the Board was, as is allowed in law, appealed directly to the previous Provincial Cabinet. Three primary objections to the Joint Board were: developer interest in securing even more land for development; concerns about 'phased' development (wanting to go first) and certain legal/jurisdictional issues. I'm told, the most serious objection of Cabinet was the jurisdictional one. After a period of time, the Provincial Cabinet decided to simply set aside the objections and accepted the decisions of the Joint Board. For all intent and purpose this represented the end of a very lengthy planning process.

It is important to acknowledge that decisions have consequences! Planning is done in accordance with the Planning Act and all the bells and whistles (including appeal mechanisms established by the Province) attached to that process. Provincial governments of all stripes have left municipal planning decisions to democratically elected councils, those governments alleged to be 'closest to the people'.

Not all municipal planning decisions are necessarily good ones. Whatever the decision, there are always related consequences - business people choose to make investment decisions based on neighbourhood growth projections; School Boards plan for new schools and municipalities plan for infrastructure requirements like roads and sewers.

Over the last couple of months, several groups and individuals facing potential negative impacts of past planning decisions have met with me looking for advice and counsel. A basic question has been: is there some way previous planning decisions can be either reviewed or rescinded? Can the situation be changed? The answer is YES but it's a cautious yes.

Long-time residents may recall that one of the major arguments made by supporters of amalgamation was that a one-tier City government would by definition, lead to better planning. Today, only the City of Hamilton can choose to review and update its' Official Plan. In fact, the City of Hamilton is currently doing exactly that - an Official Plan Review.

As part of a review, the City could come to the conclusion that the issue of growth projections must be revisited and changes made. At the very least, the City could choose to be proactive and effectively leverage the Joint Board 'conditions' by placing more attention to the 'phasing' of growth and an enhancement of 'site plan' requirements.

My hunch is that any decision to rescind or dramatically reduce growth projections for the Waterdown area, would not only prove problematic but likely open a virtual landmine of special interest litigation. Imagine - anyone who had participated in the previous planning process would make the argument they had done so in good faith. They would claim, correctly in many instances, that investments and business decisions have been taken predicated on those past planning decisions. Settling damages from these lawsuits would be an expensive proposition.

To those who suggest or have led people to believe that the current provincial government can intervene, let me be clear - that is not going to happen. Planning is, and will continue to be a municipal responsibility. For a provincial government of any stripe to intervene to arbitrarily set aside planning decisions made by any municipal council - especially a set of planning decisions already subject to a full OMB hearing - would not only break Ontario law but invite absolute chaos. No municipal government anywhere would be able to plan for community growth in accordance with the Planning Act. In short, we would no longer require a municipal government.

Today, our Waterdown community is living between memory and hope. While change is inevitable, it is often difficult and sometimes hurtful. My hope is that Mayor Di Ianni and his council will take an honest look for new ways to be sensitive to the anxiety they know exists in our community. If things have been messed up, perhaps it's time to fess-up and then recommit to taking action to embrace good ideas and to make those ideas reality. Citizens can only build a stronger, healthier, more caring and sustainable community if they believe that identifying what's 'broke' will lead to an honest effort to try to 'fix it'. It's never too late to try. There's a lot of work that needs doing. Let's get at it.

From Queen's Park: Decisions Have Consequences

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

The Review invited two of Flamborough's elected representatives to weigh in on the history and future of development in Waterdown.

Here's what MPP Ted McMeekin had to say.

* * *

The Flamborough Review has asked me to offer some reflection on the explosive residential and commercial growth projected for the Waterdown area. Case in point - every week we read about new pressures on our school system, the pending arrival of 'big box' commercial centres, concern about sewage and water and plans to build new roadways or widen existing ones like Waterdown Road and Hwy. 6.

History is important. Municipal planning is done by municipal councils in accordance with the Planning Act. Every municipality is required to have an Official Plan. This plan is amended from time to time to reflect changing circumstances and ensure effective and co-ordinated infrastructure planning. In the previous two-tier Regional government arrangement, the Region's Official Plan, by law, took precedence over area planning.

In addition to the Planning Act, certain provincial Boards and Commissions are in place to protect communities against procedural planning errors and, when necessary, to adjudicate disputes. Two such bodies are the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ontario Environment Board.

Several years ago, decisions were taken to approve massive residential growth into an expanded Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, concern was expressed about the growth desired by developers, projected timelines for that growth and the consequences, both intended and otherwise, that might result.

While the Town of Flamborough supported some residential expansion, caution was taken to ensure 'smart', phased-in growth. Flamborough's caution was not shared by the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth who believed much of the region's new growth should occur in the Waterdown area.

Years later, I still remember the meeting of the Region's Economic and Development Committee which voted 7 to 2 (with both Deputy Mayor Dave Braden and I in opposition) to approve changes that would result in a more extensive expansion of the Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, I made the observation to the seven former City of Hamilton councillors who sat on this committee, all of whom had voted in favour of the more intensive and rapid growth for Waterdown, "that not one of you could go out to the parking lot, start your car and actually drive to the site of the development you have just approved".

Official Plan Amendment (OP28) was endorsed by the Region. Almost immediately, this Amendment was appealed to a Joint OMB/OEB Board. The Joint Board hearings were lengthy, complex and costly. In the end, the Joint Board endorsed the expanded OP28 plans, subject to four specific conditions:

The adequate provision of water and sewer infrastructure;

The provision of an adequate transportation network capable of servicing the expanded area;

The ability to fund the above two objectives and finally

That all of the above be completed to the satisfaction of the Town of Flamborough.

The imposition of 'conditions' was appropriate and necessary. In fact, we were fortunate that the Joint Board had such foresight in placing conditions on growth, as it is these conditions which today provide us with some hope that we may yet get things right.

As fate would have it, condition #4 became meaningless with the subsequent amalgamation of Hamilton and the other five area municipalities into the new City of Hamilton. The other three conditions continue to apply.

There were several objections to the decision of the Joint Board and the report of the Board was, as is allowed in law, appealed directly to the previous Provincial Cabinet. Three primary objections to the Joint Board were: developer interest in securing even more land for development; concerns about 'phased' development (wanting to go first) and certain legal/jurisdictional issues. I'm told, the most serious objection of Cabinet was the jurisdictional one. After a period of time, the Provincial Cabinet decided to simply set aside the objections and accepted the decisions of the Joint Board. For all intent and purpose this represented the end of a very lengthy planning process.

It is important to acknowledge that decisions have consequences! Planning is done in accordance with the Planning Act and all the bells and whistles (including appeal mechanisms established by the Province) attached to that process. Provincial governments of all stripes have left municipal planning decisions to democratically elected councils, those governments alleged to be 'closest to the people'.

Not all municipal planning decisions are necessarily good ones. Whatever the decision, there are always related consequences - business people choose to make investment decisions based on neighbourhood growth projections; School Boards plan for new schools and municipalities plan for infrastructure requirements like roads and sewers.

Over the last couple of months, several groups and individuals facing potential negative impacts of past planning decisions have met with me looking for advice and counsel. A basic question has been: is there some way previous planning decisions can be either reviewed or rescinded? Can the situation be changed? The answer is YES but it's a cautious yes.

Long-time residents may recall that one of the major arguments made by supporters of amalgamation was that a one-tier City government would by definition, lead to better planning. Today, only the City of Hamilton can choose to review and update its' Official Plan. In fact, the City of Hamilton is currently doing exactly that - an Official Plan Review.

As part of a review, the City could come to the conclusion that the issue of growth projections must be revisited and changes made. At the very least, the City could choose to be proactive and effectively leverage the Joint Board 'conditions' by placing more attention to the 'phasing' of growth and an enhancement of 'site plan' requirements.

My hunch is that any decision to rescind or dramatically reduce growth projections for the Waterdown area, would not only prove problematic but likely open a virtual landmine of special interest litigation. Imagine - anyone who had participated in the previous planning process would make the argument they had done so in good faith. They would claim, correctly in many instances, that investments and business decisions have been taken predicated on those past planning decisions. Settling damages from these lawsuits would be an expensive proposition.

To those who suggest or have led people to believe that the current provincial government can intervene, let me be clear - that is not going to happen. Planning is, and will continue to be a municipal responsibility. For a provincial government of any stripe to intervene to arbitrarily set aside planning decisions made by any municipal council - especially a set of planning decisions already subject to a full OMB hearing - would not only break Ontario law but invite absolute chaos. No municipal government anywhere would be able to plan for community growth in accordance with the Planning Act. In short, we would no longer require a municipal government.

Today, our Waterdown community is living between memory and hope. While change is inevitable, it is often difficult and sometimes hurtful. My hope is that Mayor Di Ianni and his council will take an honest look for new ways to be sensitive to the anxiety they know exists in our community. If things have been messed up, perhaps it's time to fess-up and then recommit to taking action to embrace good ideas and to make those ideas reality. Citizens can only build a stronger, healthier, more caring and sustainable community if they believe that identifying what's 'broke' will lead to an honest effort to try to 'fix it'. It's never too late to try. There's a lot of work that needs doing. Let's get at it.

From Queen's Park: Decisions Have Consequences

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

The Review invited two of Flamborough's elected representatives to weigh in on the history and future of development in Waterdown.

Here's what MPP Ted McMeekin had to say.

* * *

The Flamborough Review has asked me to offer some reflection on the explosive residential and commercial growth projected for the Waterdown area. Case in point - every week we read about new pressures on our school system, the pending arrival of 'big box' commercial centres, concern about sewage and water and plans to build new roadways or widen existing ones like Waterdown Road and Hwy. 6.

History is important. Municipal planning is done by municipal councils in accordance with the Planning Act. Every municipality is required to have an Official Plan. This plan is amended from time to time to reflect changing circumstances and ensure effective and co-ordinated infrastructure planning. In the previous two-tier Regional government arrangement, the Region's Official Plan, by law, took precedence over area planning.

In addition to the Planning Act, certain provincial Boards and Commissions are in place to protect communities against procedural planning errors and, when necessary, to adjudicate disputes. Two such bodies are the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ontario Environment Board.

Several years ago, decisions were taken to approve massive residential growth into an expanded Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, concern was expressed about the growth desired by developers, projected timelines for that growth and the consequences, both intended and otherwise, that might result.

While the Town of Flamborough supported some residential expansion, caution was taken to ensure 'smart', phased-in growth. Flamborough's caution was not shared by the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth who believed much of the region's new growth should occur in the Waterdown area.

Years later, I still remember the meeting of the Region's Economic and Development Committee which voted 7 to 2 (with both Deputy Mayor Dave Braden and I in opposition) to approve changes that would result in a more extensive expansion of the Waterdown Settlement Area. At the time, I made the observation to the seven former City of Hamilton councillors who sat on this committee, all of whom had voted in favour of the more intensive and rapid growth for Waterdown, "that not one of you could go out to the parking lot, start your car and actually drive to the site of the development you have just approved".

Official Plan Amendment (OP28) was endorsed by the Region. Almost immediately, this Amendment was appealed to a Joint OMB/OEB Board. The Joint Board hearings were lengthy, complex and costly. In the end, the Joint Board endorsed the expanded OP28 plans, subject to four specific conditions:

The adequate provision of water and sewer infrastructure;

The provision of an adequate transportation network capable of servicing the expanded area;

The ability to fund the above two objectives and finally

That all of the above be completed to the satisfaction of the Town of Flamborough.

The imposition of 'conditions' was appropriate and necessary. In fact, we were fortunate that the Joint Board had such foresight in placing conditions on growth, as it is these conditions which today provide us with some hope that we may yet get things right.

As fate would have it, condition #4 became meaningless with the subsequent amalgamation of Hamilton and the other five area municipalities into the new City of Hamilton. The other three conditions continue to apply.

There were several objections to the decision of the Joint Board and the report of the Board was, as is allowed in law, appealed directly to the previous Provincial Cabinet. Three primary objections to the Joint Board were: developer interest in securing even more land for development; concerns about 'phased' development (wanting to go first) and certain legal/jurisdictional issues. I'm told, the most serious objection of Cabinet was the jurisdictional one. After a period of time, the Provincial Cabinet decided to simply set aside the objections and accepted the decisions of the Joint Board. For all intent and purpose this represented the end of a very lengthy planning process.

It is important to acknowledge that decisions have consequences! Planning is done in accordance with the Planning Act and all the bells and whistles (including appeal mechanisms established by the Province) attached to that process. Provincial governments of all stripes have left municipal planning decisions to democratically elected councils, those governments alleged to be 'closest to the people'.

Not all municipal planning decisions are necessarily good ones. Whatever the decision, there are always related consequences - business people choose to make investment decisions based on neighbourhood growth projections; School Boards plan for new schools and municipalities plan for infrastructure requirements like roads and sewers.

Over the last couple of months, several groups and individuals facing potential negative impacts of past planning decisions have met with me looking for advice and counsel. A basic question has been: is there some way previous planning decisions can be either reviewed or rescinded? Can the situation be changed? The answer is YES but it's a cautious yes.

Long-time residents may recall that one of the major arguments made by supporters of amalgamation was that a one-tier City government would by definition, lead to better planning. Today, only the City of Hamilton can choose to review and update its' Official Plan. In fact, the City of Hamilton is currently doing exactly that - an Official Plan Review.

As part of a review, the City could come to the conclusion that the issue of growth projections must be revisited and changes made. At the very least, the City could choose to be proactive and effectively leverage the Joint Board 'conditions' by placing more attention to the 'phasing' of growth and an enhancement of 'site plan' requirements.

My hunch is that any decision to rescind or dramatically reduce growth projections for the Waterdown area, would not only prove problematic but likely open a virtual landmine of special interest litigation. Imagine - anyone who had participated in the previous planning process would make the argument they had done so in good faith. They would claim, correctly in many instances, that investments and business decisions have been taken predicated on those past planning decisions. Settling damages from these lawsuits would be an expensive proposition.

To those who suggest or have led people to believe that the current provincial government can intervene, let me be clear - that is not going to happen. Planning is, and will continue to be a municipal responsibility. For a provincial government of any stripe to intervene to arbitrarily set aside planning decisions made by any municipal council - especially a set of planning decisions already subject to a full OMB hearing - would not only break Ontario law but invite absolute chaos. No municipal government anywhere would be able to plan for community growth in accordance with the Planning Act. In short, we would no longer require a municipal government.

Today, our Waterdown community is living between memory and hope. While change is inevitable, it is often difficult and sometimes hurtful. My hope is that Mayor Di Ianni and his council will take an honest look for new ways to be sensitive to the anxiety they know exists in our community. If things have been messed up, perhaps it's time to fess-up and then recommit to taking action to embrace good ideas and to make those ideas reality. Citizens can only build a stronger, healthier, more caring and sustainable community if they believe that identifying what's 'broke' will lead to an honest effort to try to 'fix it'. It's never too late to try. There's a lot of work that needs doing. Let's get at it.