Recent goings-on at City Hall (Part 1)

Friday, 30 April: Council Advisory Committee meeting

On Friday, 30 April, the Council Advisory Committee was asked by CAO Peter Kelley to consider abolishing requests for verbatim accounts of Council and Standing Committee meetings because (a) they take up too much of staff’s time, (b) no other municipality does this, and (c) citizens can view the video recordings on the City of Charlottetown YouTube channel.

Why is this request unacceptable and undemocratic?

  1. The poor quality of the video and audio technology in Council Chambers. 
    • The persons and presenters sitting at the “bottom of the screen” are not visible, so the viewer does not know who is speaking.
    • The words of a person speaking with a low, weak, or mumbling voice, or sitting far from the microphone, are not picked up. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, for the viewer to hear what is being said when watching the meeting.
    • Closed captioning (CC) is not an option.
  2. The minutes of Special Council and Standing Committee meetings are not available online.
  3. Meeting packages for Special Council and Standing Committees are not available online.
  4. The federal and provincial governments use Hansard services to record official reports of proceeding and debates, while municipal governments’ proceedings and debates are either recorded online, e.g. Toronto, London, Regina, Halifax and/or reported by journalists in local newspapers. Media reporting of the City of Charlottetown Council and committee meetings are spotty at best. Moreover, neither The Guardian nor CBC have a full-time dedicated municipal affairs reporter. This leaves citizens to obtain information on their own, or to remain ignorant of decisions and debates that may directly affect them.
  5. The Council Code of Conduct Bylaw (#2020-CC-01) states under Part II – PRINCIPLES:

8.4. Members of Council are responsible for the decisions that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

8.6. Members of Council must demonstrate and promote the principles of this Bylaw through their decisions, actions, and behaviour. Their behaviour must build and inspire the public’s trust and confidence in municipal government.

8.8. Members of Council have a duty to demonstrate openness and transparency about their decisions and actions.

Abolishing the long-established practice of verbatim account requests would contribute to not only eroding the public’s trust and confidence, but also making local government less transparent and accountable.

Monday, 10 May: Monthly Council Meeting

A slightly different version of the above text was sent in an e-mail to all councillors on the morning of 10 May.

That evening, Councillor Alanna Jankov – as Chair of the Council Advisory Committee – reported to Council:

“Youʼll also notice in our minutes that we did have a discussion around the requests for verbatim minutes and thatʼs just been tabled for future meeting with Council as we needed more information about what best practices are in municipalities.”

Councillor Jankov starts speaking at 1:03:45 (Video recording).

Charleston → Charlottetown: Coincidence?

Editorial in Charleston, NCʼs The Post and Courier published 24 January 2021: “Wait one minute. You want to do what to Charleston City Council minutes?” While Charlestonʼs meetings have been recorded verbatim in their entirety, Charlottetown councillors request verbatim accounts only occasionally for a specific segment of a meeting debate.

This month, Clerk of Council Jennifer Cook sought council’s permission to change the approach to those minutes from a verbatim account of what was said at the meeting to a summary approach. No doubt, the change would save on staff time, and anyone who wants to hear all the nitty-gritty details can (at least for now) easily find a recording of City Council meetings on the city’s YouTube site.

The Post and Courier, Charleston, NC

https://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-wait-one-minute-you-want-to-do-what-to-charleston-city-council-minutes/article_ce769d24-5b60-11eb-8690-83daf67d309c.html

Posted: 12 May 2021 at 7:52 am | Updated: 18 May 2021 at 11:15 am

Charlottetown’s dwindling natural assets

Four freshwater streams travel through green space, industry, and densely populated neighbourhoods to empty into the Charlottetown Harbour. They make up part of the Hillsborough River complex – a heritage river with great cultural and natural significance for Islanders. While some of the upper reaches have been buried over the course of the City’s development, 9.5 km of freshwater stream habitat in Ellen’s, Wright’s, Hermitage, and Hazard Creeks remained in 2015.

In August 2015, City Council formally accepted the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan through resolution during its public meeting. 

The five-year management plan includes five goals. Objective 3.1, under Goal 3 “Protect water quantity in Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks”, states:

Work with the City and province to develop long-term protection for remaining green space in headwater areas of all three creeks. As the City grows, there will be increasing pressure to develop the farmland that remains in the headwaters of Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks. Ultimately there will be a reduction in groundwater discharge to the three City streams, lowering stream levels and limiting habitat. There is a need for a long-term vision for green space preservation similar to that seen in larger Canadian cities like Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton where streams, ravines and riparian margins are permanently protected from development.

Red circle: planned developments

Map of known locations for storm-water discharges to Ellen’s Creek showing 5831 m3 at 10 mm rainfall, the second highest on the map:

Red circle: planned developments

More good news in December 2020: “The City of Charlottetown has partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) to develop its own natural asset inventory. The inventory will include a list of natural assets such as wetlands, streams, fields, and forests, and outline the boundaries of the City’s assets.”

The not-so-good news:

In April 2021, the City hosted a public meeting to present its “West Royalty Commercial Area Traffic Plan”, the new road network intended to accommodate future planned developments surrounding the very lands City Council had accepted to protect through the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan. And even if the City completes the natural asset inventory, by how much will that inventory be reduced if the anticipated developments occur?

The Future Conditions 2041 image is striking not only because of the massive area covered by projected developments, but also because of the surfaces representing parking lots, the shopping mall, strip malls, and mega-stores. The narrow green belt is all that is left of the natural land bordering the creek (riparian zone).

Why, for instance, is the City not encouraging developers to use the built environment? Other cities have been reducing their parking minimum requirements or redeveloping parking lots and existing buildings. Charlottetown would benefit from both options, as would Charlottetowners, Islanders, and visitors.

If you care about the protection and preservation of our natural green spaces and freshwater streams, please let your councillor know. Or leave a comment. Thank you.


Related post: The Value of Natural Assets (3 May 2021)

The ongoing saga of Sir John A. statue

On 16 June 2020, Charlottetown City council held a special closed meeting to address the John A. bench statue at the entrance to Richmond Street (aka Victoria Row) after receiving several e-mails calling for it to be removed.

During the night of 17 June 2020, the statue was defaced with a large amount of red paint.

On 25 June 2020, at a Special Meeting of Council, Mayor Brown introduces the “piece of art” topic (start at 23:20 of video-recording) and a discussion ensues on what to do to address the issue.

CBC reported: “Charlottetown city council is keeping a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald on public display, and will open talks with P.E.I.’s Indigenous community about how best to present Canada’s contentious history of its dealings with Indigenous people.”

On 7 September 2020, the bench the statue sits on was knocked over and dragged.

On 20 January 2021, the Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee discussed the statue (22:45 to 52:45 of video-recording), with Committee Chair Julie McCabe providing a good summary of events to date.

On 28 January 2021, in response to the Committee meeting, the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils address a letter to Mayor Brown in which they reiterated the five suggestions they had made to address the statue situation in keeping with Reconciliation objectives:

  1. Revising the art installation with the addition of another figure, such as an Indigenous child or elder, to offset the existing one and therefore visibly represent his impact on Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
  2. Fill in or seal off the empty space on the bench to remove any opportunity for the bench to be used for photo opportunities. 
  3. Install signage or sufficiently large plaquing to ensure that those viewing the installation can clearly read and understand the devastating role that Sir John A. MacDonald played in the Indigenous history of Canada. 
  4. If the artist engaged is not Indigenous, a Mi’kmaq artist should be contracted to serve as a consultant and provide guidance to the artist. 
  5. The completion date for this work should be as soon as reasonably possible with elements in place by spring at the latest.
  6. PLUS: We had hoped that while work was under way, signage would have been immediately placed on the bench to a) remove the photo opportunity and b) advise that a project is underway to amend the installation to tell the true and complete history of Sir John A. MacDonald and his role in the policies and laws which continue to have devastating impacts on the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. 

Fast-forward to 21 April 2021: In this Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee meeting, Mayor Philip Brown (video-recording 4:35 to 9:30) focussed on the statue conundrum — reminding those present that it is a $75,000 public piece of art — in view of the resolution passed 25 June 2020.

The resolution stated:
That City Council endorse the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald [sic] remain in place,
And further that the City bring the appropriate stakeholders together to determine best steps forward to recognize that the full story be told, and in particular, involve the Native Council, MCPEI and L’nuey to ensure direct input to bring resolve.
CARRIED 10-0

The Mayor and Coun. MacLeod had a heated exchange, with the Mayor concerned that this ongoing controversy is tarnishing the city’s image, and the 25 June 2020 resolution failed to make a recommendation to City Council.

Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee meeting (21 April 2021)

And so, on 26 April 2021, at a Special Meeting of Council, Mayor Brown proposed an amendment to the June 2020 resolution. Some confusion ensues… Some councillors wonder why the statue is being discussed … again … when it’s not even on the agenda.

On 30 April 2021, The Guardian reported that red paint had been smeared on the face of statue (published in May 1 paper edition).

Stay tuned for a special meeting of the Economic Development, Tourism & Event Management Committee starting at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May 2021. The meeting will be streamed live. The video recording will be available on the City’s YouTube channel.

Posted: 4 May 2021, 6:45 p.m. ⎢ Updated: 5 May 2021, 10:40 a.m.

The value of natural assets

The value of nature in urban environments has been highlighted and emphasized over the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nature of Cities is a Web site that contains a wide variety of essays written by people from around the world. For example:

  1. The Value of Green Urban Assets and the True Costs of Development: How a city’s under-appreciated green assets are quietly making oxygen, absorbing pollutants, sponging up storm water, and controlling erosion. They also enhance property values, supporting urban fisheries, agriculture and recreation, and providing animal habitats and pollinator corridors. 
  2. Putting Nature First: What cities need to do to put nature first in strategic urban agendas.

Biophilic Cities is a growing global community that aims to “build an understanding of the value and contribution of nature in cities to the lives of urban residents” and “acknowledges the importance of daily contact with nature as an element of a meaningful urban life, as well as the ethical responsibility that cities have to conserve global nature as shared habitat for non-human life and people”. The Web site includes resources, films, and even a COVID-19 Research section with a long reading list covering everything from food security to active travel to urban planning to biodiversity … and more!

I hope you enjoy exploring the links above and that they inspire you to be an advocate for the protection and preservation of nature and green spaces in our beautiful city.

Guest post: Historic 500 Lot Area building standards and guidelines

Submitted by Joan Cumming, a long-time Sydney Street resident who attended the 27 April Public Meeting for the 199 Grafton residential/parkade/commercial development proposal

At the public meeting on April 27, 2021, I quoted to you from the “Standards and Guidelines” section of the report by the Planning Partnership approved by Council a few years ago, highlighting their comments on large and taller buildings proposed for the historic 500 Lot Area


Larger & Taller Buildings Have the Greatest Civic Responsibilities

The 500 Lot Area has a long history of large and tall buildings. Historic buildings, such as St. Dunstan’s Basilica or the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, exhibit architectural grandeur that corresponds to their scale and civic importance. The way they are situate on their sites, the expressed massing, material quality, and design detail, all work in concert to enhance their stature while positively contributing to their context. By contrast, more contemporary large-scaled developments, such as the Delta Prince Edward, exhibit far lesser care for their context or design quality. Consequently, by virtue of their scale, they sit prominently and distractingly in the streetscape, constantly reinforcing the perception of large-scale being synonymous with bad design.The Standard & Guidelines recognize that large-scaled buildings are, and will continue to be, part of the urban fabric of the 500 Lot Area. However, these developments should be directed only to where they already exist and can be accommodated, and subject to stringent conditions and performance standards. Appropriate setbacks and massing are especially important to ensuring that these building do not overwhelm and adversely impact streetscapes and adjacent properties with respect to matters such as sky view, wind, and shadows. Given their visual prominence, these buildings should be held to the highest design standards, exhibiting landmark architectural qualities. Furthermore, these development rights ought to be privileged through a bonus afforded only in exchange for public benefits such as heritage protection, community amenities, or public realm improvements.


The development currently under review is nowhere near compliant with these recommendations nor is it a structure of civic importance like the majority of past and present tall buildings in the city.

I would like to have spent more time reminding those present of what dire straits Charlottetown has been in since last spring with COVID-19 restrictions keeping visitors away, devastating the local economy, and showing us just how deeply dependent we are on attracting tourists. 

Why do visitors come to our city?  Firstly, because of its signature place in the history of this country, but once here they are totally surprised and captivated by the uniqueness and charm of the place.  I know, because I have been hosting them for over 30 years and have enjoyed taking them on walking tours for the last twenty.  I know what they love, admire, and wished they had in their part of the world — the built evidence of our history lining the streets.  These streetscapes should be preserved at all costs — in fact, any resident who owns a “designated heritage property” is subjected to restrictions by City bylaws if they want to make improvements or changes to it. 

Why is it not the same for big-building developers?  Anyone building “infill” in the 500 Lot Area should be obliged to adhere to the bylaws but instead, the reverse seems to be the case because approval of zoning changes and variances seem to be the norm rather than the exception.  This encourages developers to dictate what they want to City Council and to push the limits to get the optimum benefit out of empty space, sometimes to the detriment of those living nearby, often regardless of the negative impact on a streetscape, and showing no respect for the City’s efforts at heritage preservation.

What should be required of such projects is that they be in harmony with what is already there, not something which is distracting.  The Planning Partnership study does not promote the concept of “modern” being a desirable or appealing contrast with the historic gems I mentioned like City Hall and the three churches on Prince Street!  None of my guests or walkers on my tours has ever raved about the glass and metal structures that have appeared in the city core in the last few years but rather mention how these ruin the character of an otherwise attractive street.  To keep travellers interested in coming here, returning for longer stays, and encouraging others to do the same, Charlottetown has to remain an icon with a high standard of integrating the old with the new

This proposal fails miserably to do that and should be sent back to the drawing board.

Update: 199 Grafton – Public meeting (April 27, 2021)

The proposed development is located in downtown Charlottetown. Why was the public meeting not held downtown?  Choosing the Rodd Royalty Hotel on Capital Drive prevented car-less (or car-free) residents from participating in person, since no public transit is available in the evening.
This is intentional exclusion.

The meeting starts at minute 19:00 in the video-recording and runs a little over one hour.

A few thoughts about APM’s application for the proposed 84-unit apartment building and 213-space parkade:

1. A development application that requires seven variances — and not minor variances at that — should never have been approved by the Planning Department. A requirement is precisely what the word says: “A thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition.” (Oxford Dictionary). Why wasn’t the application refused on grounds that the building plans failed to fulfill the requirements?

2. Parkade: Should the project eventually be approved, would the 213 parking spaces in the new building be seen as an opportunity for the City to reduce on-street parking by an equal number of spaces? Downtown sidewalks are already narrow enough. Removing on-street parking would enable the City to widen sidewalks on several blocks along Prince, Kent, Great George, and Grafton, and/or make room for bicycle lanes. This would create a more walkable and pedestrian/cyclist friendly downtown. Many North American cities have been making such changes over the past year.

3. Clark Street: This street has been neglected for too long. A 278-foot long, 71-foot high building would overshadow and overwhelm the two- and three-storey residences on Kent Street whose backyards are on Clark Street. Curiously enough, Mr Banks’s slide show did not include an image of the proposed building from a Clark Street perspective.

4. Professional design review: Doug MacArthur was present at the meeting and pointed out that Fellow & Company Limited (45:00) is the same firm that did the design review for Killam’s 15 Haviland project (1:03:45–1:05:45).


The application for 199 Grafton will be presented to the Planning Board and streamed live on Monday, 3 May, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Update: West Royalty Traffic Study – Public meeting (April 26, 2021)

Lowlight 1 : City officials stated that they’ve been dealing with developers for the last four years, that they’ve “been working on this for a number of months” and “put a lot of work into this”, yet allocated a mere two hours for a public meeting at the tail end — instead of the front end — of the process.

Lowlight 2: Two City employees with microphones assigned to go to members of the audience wishing to speak were not directed in an efficient manner to the next speaker. Result: Possibly as many as ten people did not get an opportunity to ask a question or voice a comment, because the meeting had to end at 9 P.M.

Unforgivable technical glitch: The video-recording did not capture Planning Manager Alex Forbes’s portion of the presentation (8:20–12:40), in which he shared significant information about the planning process. I have written to Public Works Manager Scott Adams to request that Mr Forbes provide a written version of the situational context for the public’s benefit.

Tokenism: The slide of a Complete Streets design (32:00), which was not included in the Draft Final Report of the traffic study. CBCL’s traffic engineer Mark MacDonald hesitant delivery of this portion sounded very much like a last-minute addition to address criticisms about the lack of transit and active travel components in the Report.

Questions and comments: The public feedback portion starts at 34:50. Every speaker, bar none, contributed perceptive and informed comments or asked significant questions.
(Audience applause muted).

Q&A Highlights (a few among many)

1. Catherine Mullally’s comments and questions about transparency and communications, followed by replies from Public Works Manager Scott Adams and Public Works Committee Chair and Councillor Terry MacLeod. (1:01:57 to 1:09:06)

2. Don Read’s analogy to opening a Champagne bottle. (1:38:13)

3. Beth Cullen’s passionate plea for the protection and preservation of the Confederation Trail and our natural spaces. (1:39:04 to 1:43:26, including CBCL’s response).

As time of posting, the public meeting video was viewed 191 times.

PUBLIC MEETING 27 April: New building at 199 Grafton Street

On April 18, a concerned resident wrote:

I found a notice taped to the side my community mailbox on Prince Street about this Public Meeting yesterday.

It took a lot of effort to find this notice on the City’s website – not in News and Events and barely visible at the bottom of the small square for April 27 on the meeting calendar due to other postings for that date.

This is a big building and has potential to set trends downtown yet again.  Going for many height and setback variances.  When you read the Planning Board meeting, the only rationale I could see (so far) that he [developer] is giving for the extra bonus height is … ‘housing’ (on top of a parkade which was the main selling point in his news release).

If you want to read exactly what is written on the lime green notice, it is now available under Upcoming Events on the City’s home page.

To quote/paraphrase Dave Meslin: “The City of Charlottetown clearly doesn’t want you involved with the planning process, otherwise their ads would look something like this [below], with all the information laid out clearly. As long as the city’s putting out notices like [above] to try to get people engaged, then of course people aren’t going to be engaged. But that’s not apathy; that’s intentional exclusion.” 

A clear, comprehensible, and inviting public meeting notice.

Following Meslins example, homeowners created their own sign in an attempt to inform neighbouring residents, many of whom are tenants.

A clear, comprehensible, and inviting public meeting notice.

If a homeowner can provide such a clear, comprehensible, and inviting public meeting notice, why cant the Planning Department?


The full meeting package (49 pages) contains APMʼs Site Specific Exemption application with drawings and images, the letter sent to property owners located within 100 metres of the subject property, and copies of the public notices (posters and newspaper ad). A separate folder contains letters received until today, with likely more added after the public meeting.

If you decide to see and hear what the plans are for 199 Grafton, tune in on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be streamed live at www.charlottetown.ca/video

PUBLIC MEETING 26 April: West Royalty Traffic Plan

On Friday, February 26, the City posted a bare-boned announcement on its website with a rather misleading title: City Requests Input on Traffic Master Plan.
Equally misleading subtitle: City Requests Feedback on West Royalty Commercial Area Traffic Master Plan.
In addition to information on where to find the documents and how to submit comments, the announcement stated: “While there is no current deadline to submit feedback, please note that residents will have the opportunity to provide input in a public consultation, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.”

On Tuesday, April 13—a full nine weeks later—a seemingly unrelated announcement was posted on the Cityʼs website: City to Hold Public Consultation Meeting.
Subtitle: City to Hold Public Consultation on West Royalty Area Traffic Master Plan. (Oops! Someone forgot to include ‛Commercial’).
It contained essentially the same information as the February 26 notice, only this time the date, the meeting location (Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts), and instructions for reserving seats were added.

On Friday, April 23three days before the meeting—a notice about the public meeting was published on page B7 in The Guardian.

Aside from the appalling lack of clear, effective, and open communication, the City failed to include in its three totally inadequate announcements any images of the future planned developments and the roads around them. All, by the way, on greenfields or former agricultural land.

Residential (yellow): Total 1,919 apartment units and 390 townhouses.

Note also that the Confederation Trail, which is under Provincial jurisdiction, will be bisected by two roads:
(1) the planned Spencer Drive extension, part of the Killam/RioCan/APM development at Towers Road and
(2) the Fern Garden Drive extension (Martha’s Court). Apparently, neither the Province nor Island Trails have been informed or consulted about the two roads, which will severely undermine the integrity of the Trail.

In essence, the last paragraph in the newspaper ad seems to indicate that the so-called Plan is a fait accompli. After all, the City hasn’t specified precisely what kind of input it is seeking from the public so late in the process.

If all these developments were to be built, by 2041 the population living in this area would be equal to (if not greater than) the population of Souris. All in an area of approximately one square kilometre (or 250 acres or 100 hectares).

If too few citizens show up at the meeting on Monday night, City officials have no one to blame but themselves (which begs the question: why did it choose the Homburg Theatre, current capacity 300?).


See my April 22 post for the 2025 and 2031 Future Conditions.

To reserve a seat for the public meeting, to go https://confederationcentre.com/event-list/?ID=publicmeeting and click “Book Now” (blue dots = free seats),  phone 902-566-1267, or send an e-mail to info@confederationcentre.com.

It’s time to reclaim our roads

Hey City!

REGIONAL TRAVEL: Post-WWII euphemism for long & unsustainable car trips

Video : Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Even though this eighteen-minute video was shot in New York City, Rollie Williams does a fabulous job explaining how the car industry hijacked our roads.

Be prepared for some history, a bit of satire, a bit of comedy, and a lot of information. As he says, “Now is the time to get involved!” We cannot let motor vehicles continue to be the only way to travel on Prince Edward Island.

“Mum, why can’t I walk to school?”