SHERWOOD CROSSING – When Checks and Balances Don’t Work

by Doug MacArthur
published Friday, August 27, 2021, on Future of Charlottetown

Checks and balances are defined as “various procedures set in place to reduce mistakes, prevent improper behaviour, or decrease the risk of centralization of power”. They are not working in the case of Killam/APM’s Sherwood Crossing project approval process.

On January 4, 2021, an IRAC appeal was launched against the City’s decision to rezone the Sherwood Crossing lands to enable Killam/APM to build a large project on the site. That appeal is still before IRAC, with City Hall on August 6, 2021, filing its most recent information with IRAC in response to questionable testimony given by the City’s Planning Department official who has handled the file, and by Tim Banks, as well as questions about when the Development Agreement between City Hall was actually signed off by the City [Mayor Philip Brown and CAO Peter Kelly] and by the Developer [Tim Banks]. The Development Agreement is dated April 15, 2021, but appears not to be signed off until June, 2021. All of this information and more can be found on the IRAC website, and it is well worth reading.

The point is that it may be some time before IRAC decides on the Sherwood Crossing rezoning appeal, so the site does not now have final approval for development. Yet Mayor Brown and Peter Kelly on behalf of the City entered into a Development Agreement in June 2021, re Sherwood Crossing while knowing full well that the property rezoning has been under IRAC appeal since January. There is also no clause in the City/Sherwood Crossing Development Agreement [see IRAC website] which specifically makes the Development Agreement conditional on a favourable decision by IRAC re the rezoning. Yet, it is common and proper practice to do so. For example, Nova Scotia municipal regulations require “that a development agreement shall not be entered into until all appeals have been abandoned or disposed of”.

And how has Tim Banks/APM responded since he has had the Development Agreement in place? He has publicly regarded it as a commitment by City Hall to enable him to begin construction, and APM in fact recently undertook substantial construction work at the Sherwood Crossing site, before having a Cease Construction order issued by City Hall last week after this writer [Doug MacArthur ] filed a complaint. Under Govt of PEI regulations, “In almost all instances both a Development Permit AND a Building Permit will be required before construction can begin on a project”. Tim Banks/APM had neither for the Sherwood Crossing project.

After City Hall issued the Sherwood Crossing Cease Construction order, Tim Banks threatened to take legal action against City Hall. And, instead of the City standing its ground., it held a closed session of City Council this week, after which, Mayor Philip Brown presiding, there was a City Council vote taken to issue APM a foundation permit, enabling Sherwood Crossing construction work to resume. 

A Development Agreement is NOT a Development Permit, but City Hall seems to be treating it as one. If a Sherwood Crossing Development Agreement gives APM the right to begin construction there, then what’s to stop Mr Banks/APM/Killam and City Hall doing the same thing at 15 Haviland where they have had a Development Agreement for their proposed 99-unit, 10-storey structure since January of 2020? More on all this in upcoming posts.

Bottom line is that the development checks and balances aren’t working in Charlottetown. Many citizens have lost trust in our mayor and most councillors to represent our interests. Often we either don’t know what’s going on at City Hall, or we’re fed the pablum version of transparency, such as the current Chair of Planning’s [Terry MacLeod] version of next steps in the Sherwood Crossing saga. 

The Province obviously wants nothing to do with any of this, even though it has a clear oversight responsibility which it is not fulfilling. If it won’t stand up for the citizens of our city, it should at least support IRAC. How can the Province expect IRAC to make a fair decision, without pressure, on the current Sherwood Crossing rezoning IRAC appeal when construction of a $95 million project is already underway and when City Hall has not protected itself in the terms of the Development Agreement that Mayor Brown and Peter Kelly signed? Because City Hall and Govt of PEI checks and balances on development don’t work, the citizens of Charlottetown are left holding the bag, and paying the possible lawsuits to follow.


Time for the Province to step up re Charlottetown City Council mayhem

by Doug MacArthur
published Friday, August 20, 2021, on Future of Charlottetown social media

This Future of Charlottetown Facebook page was created one year ago, primarily to bring attention to major municipal issues in which the Mayor Philip Brown administration, for whatever reasons, has not been properly representing the interests of the citizens of Charlottetown. The situation continues to deteriorate to the point where it seems that this City administration either doesn’t understand its responsibilities to the public, or it doesn’t give a damn about those responsibilities. It is past time for the Government of PEI to exercise its oversight responsibilities.

We have posted on questionable City Hall development approval processes, [eg Killam/APM 15 Haviland and Sherwood Crossing projects]; potential conflicts of interest, including Councillor Greg Rivard, or maybe the mayor himself through his construction business [see recent Charlottetown work site photos here]; questionable tendering processes [eg fire station architectural bids]; lack of by-law enforcement related to favoured businesses; misleading reports to the public; far too many closed-door Council meetings; and on and on. 

We have also asked many questions of the Mayor, usually without receiving authentic, informative answers. Meanwhile, almost every neighbourhood of our city has had to mobilize to reverse inappropriate City Hall decisions [eg Simmons rink and pool, Trainor Street], or to file IRAC appeals. It has to stop.

Our November 3, 2020, Facebook post reported on a public inquiry final report released the previous day on conflicts, etc., involving the municipal government in Collingwood, Ontario. Following is a CBC excerpt related to the conclusions: “Unfair bidding practices, unfair procurement practices, conflicts of interest, inaccurate and misleading town council reports, the misuse and inappropriate disclosure of the town’s confidential information”, was how (Judge Frank) Marrocco described his findings Monday at a news conference releasing his 914-page report. “In other words, behaviours that, left unaddressed, undermines the foundational core and reputation of a municipal government.”

These same issues are rampant in the Mayor Brown administration. The Government of Ontario acted to launch the Collingwood public inquiry. Surely, the PEI Government has a similar responsibility in the current situation in which the Brown administration is clearly not acting in the public interest on many fronts. Although the Government of PEI should not require even more public outcry in order to act, a citizens’ petition delivered on Rochford Square may need to be the next steps to correct this unacceptable and deteriorating City of Charlottetown situation.

Sherwood Crossing update: Last week, we filed a complaint with City Hall re Killam/APM construction proceeding without permit approval. Finally, this week City Hall advised me [Doug MacArthur] that a Cease Construction order was issued by the City to APM. Thank you to all who brought this major, unauthorized construction to our attention.

View from Towers Road (August 13, 2021)

Removing the shackles of parking minimums

What are Minimum Parking Requirements?

Parking minimums are local laws that require private businesses and residences to provide at least a certain number of off-street parking spaces. Minimum parking requirements hinder the potential of cities such as Charlottetown by filling them with unproductive, empty parking spaces that don’t add value to our places.

History

The first minimum parking requirement was established in 1923 in Columbus, Ohio. By the 1950s, parking minimums had grown to become a staple of North American urban planning—a catalyst for how the automobile was to define North America and the shape of its cities.

In recent years, transportation planners have been pointing out that parking minimums increase the distance between destinations, making cities and towns less walkable, thereby perpetuating a cycle of less viable transit and mobility options, the need for more driving, and—subsequently—even more parking.

The social, economic, and environmental costs

According to Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA Donald Shoup, parking requirements increase traffic congestion, pollute the air, encourage sprawl, raise housing costs, degrade urban design, prevent walkability, damage the economy, and penalize everyone who cannot afford a car. Despite all the harm off-street parking requirements cause, they remain almost an established religion in zoning practice.

The benefits of eliminating parking minimums

By removing the shackles of mandated parking, cities and towns can lower business costs, reduce sprawl and make transit safer and more convenient for everyone. It’s time to stop prioritizing parking over people, writes Mac Dressman, a Transform Transportation associate with the US-based PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).

Daniel Herriges, an urban and regional planner, proposes a “press one key” solution [customised by author] to reforming parking policy:

  • Open the cityʼs zoning code.
  • Go to Section 44 (General Provisions for Parking)
  • Swipe over the whole parking section with your mouse and highlight it.
  • Hit the delete button.

A Canadian first

In July 2020, Edmonton became the first major Canadian city to eliminate off-street parking minimums citywide.

“This policy removes barriers for new homes and for businesses, and
improves choice and flexibility in how businesses and homeowners
meet their future parking needs.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson

A Canadian second

In an effort to provide more flexibility for businesses when it comes to parking, Calgary City Council voted in November 2020 to allow some businesses to avoid commercial parking requirements. The decision was approved, according to the Cityʼs Web site, which states that
This change:

  • Allows businesses and developers to advise how much parking makes sense for their development
  • Decreases indirect parking costs that would be passed onto consumers, businesses and tenants
  • Creates an urban form that encourages walking, cycling and transit
  • Enables spaces to be designed for people rather than for vehicles
  • Encourages more active modes of transportation over driving

A Herculean task?

Getting rid of parking minimum requirements can be surprisingly challenging. In this truly inspiring one-hour webcast (it also involves housing), you’ll learn from a team of advocates and local leaders who successfully accomplished this feat in their city of Edmonton, Alberta.

Call to action

If you believe the City should review its minimum parking requirements, write to your councillor (see Links at right), using any of the reasons listed above, or in the articles below [some are repeats of hyperlinks in this post].


Related articles: