On Wednesday of this week, we [signed off by Doug MacArthur] filed a request with the City that it Reconsider its August 26, 2021, decision to approve site and foundation construction permits for the proposed townhouses on Towers Road re Killam’s/APM’s Sherwood Crossing project. Also on Wednesday we filed an IRAC Appeal in the same matter.
Our filings make the case that proper process is not being followed. In our view, it is not appropriate for permits to be issued and construction to proceed on a project which has not yet even had its rezoning approved. That rezoning is presently the subject of another party’s IRAC appeal begun early in 2021.
Additionally, the August 26 City Council permit approval meeting, both in public and in closed session, was chaired by Mayor Philip Brown, who we believe should have declared a conflict of interest, excused himself, and should have avoided any involvement in the discussions or decisions relating to the August 26 City Council approval. We believe the August 26 permit approval process was tainted.
We also have other issues with the exaggerated relevance being attached to the Sherwood Crossing development agreement between the City and the developer. We believe there have been other process violations, not to mention APM/Killam proceeding for a considerable time with construction this summer at Sherwood Crossing without a permit, and receiving no sanctions for doing so.
There is a well-established and defined approval process to be followed for new Charlottetown development projects. In some cases, particularly Sherwood Crossing, that process has not been respected or followed. It needs to be followed if citizens are to have confidence in City Hall decision-making and in our municipal checks and balances. So, the purpose in our Wednesday filings is to help restore proper and proven processes to City Hall decision-making. We are not necessarily against a development at Sherwood Crossing, but we want any development to respect proper process, not engage in unacceptable tactics that do a disservice to our community.
The next steps in our filings will be for City Hall to consider our Reconsideration request while our IRAC Appeal is held in abeyance. If our Reconsideration request is rejected, then the IRAC appeal will proceed. There may also be some other related filings along the way.
This post will likely draw the ire of the usual small handful of vested interests, contrarians, and wild-west advocates, and that comes with the territory. However, we wish to express our appreciation to the thousands of Charlottetown and PEI citizens who support our posts, week in and week out. Our most recent post re potential Mayor Brown conflict of interest has been viewed by over 10,000 people, liked by almost 200 people, commented on by more than 125 people and shared by more than 80 people, for a total of almost 400 people who took the time to express their views and concerns. That is phenomenal support, it is what public participation is all about, and it is very much appreciated. It is testament to the thousands of citizens who want a future of Charlottetown in which we can have great pride and confidence.
Following is a summary of pertinent facts to consider re Mayor Philip Brown and his possible conflict of interest re APM et al. In addition to being mayor of Charlottetown, Mayor Philip Brown works with his family business [EB Brown Transport and Crane Services Inc and Atlantic Hy-Span Ltd] as a business accountant and public relations officer and director. His family business is a member of the Construction Association of PEI with Philip Brown listed as the EB Brown contact person.
Since becoming mayor, his family business has provided crane services to Tim Banks/APM on a number of projects, including the Blackbush Tracadie project in 2020 and APM projects in the city. When questioned on this, Tim Banks recently told CBC News “..the mayor’s crane shows up on our job sites, what are we supposed to do, wait until we can get one from the Irvings? It’s just doing business on a small island.” It should be noted that there are other PEI crane services providers besides EB Brown.
Despite his private business interests, Mayor Brown has not excused himself from City Hall development/planning/permit deliberations/decisions involving Tim Banks and/or APM and related companies. In fact, Mayor Brown has presided at various such City Council meetings, most recently in the City Council decision in late August to approve a footings permit for Killam/APM’s Sherwood Crossing project after other City officials had issued a Cease Construction Order to APM. Mayor Brown also vigorously contended that the 15 Haviland Killam/APM-proposed waterfront high-rise should be granted “as of right” without an opportunity for Council or public input. The 15 Haviland project does not even remotely qualify for “as of right” (without the need for additional approvals or amendments). He also contends that he doesn’t vote as mayor unless there is a tie. But he doesn’t mention that he sits and participates on every Council committee, including Planning Board, and has voting rights on all of them.
At an August 9th, 2021, Regular Monthly meeting of City Council, a councillor asked City Solicitor David Hooley what happens if a Council member has a conflict of interest and doesn’t declare it? What are the consequences? David Hooley replied that the consequences for a member who doesn’t declare a conflict of interest are serious, based on PEI’s Municipal Government Act. Mr Hooley noted that the consequences are also serious for the organization [i.e. City Council] because the person not declaring the conflict may taint the whole organization and require that the whole project approval process go back to Council again. This opinion by Mr Hooley should be a concern relating to Sherwood Crossing, and possibly other APM developments in which Mayor Brown has participated.
The Municipal Government Act (Section 96) is very clear. “(1) A council member is in a conflict of interest if, in relation to a matter under consideration by the council, the member or a person closely connected to the member (a) has any pecuniary interest; …. (2) A council member is in a conflict of interest if the member makes a decision or participates in making a decision in the execution of his or her office while at the same time the member knows or ought reasonably to know that the member’s private interests or the private interests of a person closely connected to the member affected the member’s impartiality in the making of the decision…. (3) A council member who is in a conflict of interest as described in subsection (1) or (2) shall (a) declare the member’s interest in the matter before the council; (b) remove himself or herself from the council meeting and any other meeting when the matter is discussed; (c) abstain from the discussion and voting on the matter; and (d) not attempt in any way, before, during or after a meeting, to influence the discussion or voting on any question, decision, recommendation or other action to be taken involving a matter in which the member has a conflict of interest. (4) Subject to subsection (6), a member who fails to comply with clauses (3)(a) to (c) or who contravenes clause (3)(d) is disqualified from serving on council.”
Finally, although Future of Charlottetown has issues with Councillor Greg Rivard being the official real estate agent for Killam/APM’s Sherwood Crossing project, Councillor Rivard, to his credit, was quoted in a CBC interview last week as saying “I’ve stepped out of the room on any conversation because I’m in conflict,” he says. “Any discussion with regards to anything related to the developer, Tim Banks, any project that he comes forward with, I’m in conflict.”
Why shouldn’t Mayor Philip Brown have followed the same course and what, if anything, are the consequences for not doing so? Also, what are the City Solicitor’s responsibilities to advise City Council re this potentially serious conflict on the Mayor’s part and to protect the public interest, and what are the responsibilities of councillors in this matter? And what of the Province’s oversight role? The public needs answers.
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
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.
At the June 22 Public Meeting to hear the Request for Reconsideration filed by Mel’s Convenience owner Dan MacIsaac, a resident asked whether Councillor Terry Bernard and Councillor Mike Duffy had violated the Council Code of Conduct bylaw.
The resident informed Council that Counc. Bernard had written a letter on City letterhead informing his wardʼs constituents about the St Peters Rd roundabout (a provincial matter), but failed to mention Melʼs rezoning application, a municipal matter and the subject of the Request for Reconsideration. In Counc. Duffyʼs case, he had expressed his voting intention on the Request for Reconsideration at an open Council meeting, which should have disqualified him from voting on the Reconsideration resolution.
Section 9. General Conduct (b) Members of Council must be committed to performing their fucntions with integrity and to avoiding conflicts of interest and the improper use of the influence of their office.
Cox & Palmer lawyer David Hooley, as legal counsel for the City of Charlottetown, was asked to provide a legal opinion. He deemed that both councillors were not in a conflict of interest. In other words, they had not contravened the Code of Conduct.
The information relating to both councillors can be found here (July 1 post, see hyperlinks in #5).
On Monday, July 12, Council met in a closed session at a Special Meeting of Council, where Councillor Mitchell Tweel was informed that he breached the Code of Conduct. The resolution, found on the last page of the July 12 Resolutions and Minutes file, does not specify the relevant section(s) of the Bylaw associated with the transgression, nor of any other City Bylaw.
According to The Guardian’s July 13 article, Tweel failed to attend 30 of the 32 Planning Board meetings held since last October, when the committees were restructured. Mayor Brown said when Tweel brought up concerns [in 2020] about his family business connections, senior administration asked its legal counsel, Karen Campbell, to look into the matter. She found no conflict of interest.
The way the article was written, the Mayor didn’t quite follow the order of the complaint and resolution process: “That’s when an independent third-party human resources investigator was brought in. The investigator’s report found Tweel to be in breach of the city’s code of conduct. […] Brown said the city then offered to bring in a mediator. Duffy declined, so the matter went back to council […]”
The Code of Conduct Bylaw states: 25.8. If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved after the Mayorʼs facilitation […], the Mayor, with the assistance of the CAO, may appoint a mediator to attempt to resolve the matter. 26.1. Failing resolution by the Mayorʼs facilitation or mediation, the Mayor […] will appoint an independent investigator…
The Code of Conduct Bylaw does not list a councillorʼs obligations to attend a set number of committee meetings. Nor was such a requirement found in the Cityʼs Procedural Bylaw.
On July 19, this billboard was seen on the corner of Towers and Mount Edward roads.
Councillor Greg Rivard was the Chair of the Planning & Heritage Committee from January 2019 to mid-October 2020.
In February 2020, CBC posted an article about a new development, quoting APM owner Tim Banks that it “goes before the city’s planning board on March 2.” Ultimately, what has become known as Sherwood Crossing was presented to the Planning Board on August 4. A public meeting was held on August 26.
The Planning Department presented its report, including feedback received from citizens, at the September 8 Planning Board meeting. Councillor Julie McCabe made motion for a deferral, because the traffic study commissioned by the City and involving the development had not been received. The vote was tied 4–4. The only time a Chair can vote is to break a tie. Councillor Rivard voted against the deferral.
A discussion then took place about the traffic study. Planning Manager Alex Forbes suggested that Council could request a deferral, thereby signalling his desire that the application be recommended to Council for approval. Councillor Rivard brushed Resident member Rosemary Herbertʼs concerns away too, stating that “if the information is not there [in the meeting package] to support the motion, then Council has every right to defer…” at the Monday meeting.
In January 2021, Greg Rivard joined RE/MAX Charlottetown as a licensed realtor. He recently became the listing agent for Tim Banksʼs Sherwood Crossing development [Note: IRAC appeal still ongoing].
Future of Charlottetown contacted Greg Rivard about the perceived conflict of interest and received this reply by e-mail: “I was contacted apprx 3 weeks ago by representatives of Killam/APM asking if I would be interested in listing the properties through myself and Remax. I contacted my own solicitor as well as the City solicitor and asked them to review prior to accepting the offer. I was cleared with no conflict concerns.”
Four councillors, four different situations, three cleared by the Cityʼs legal counsel, and one penalized after an investigation that cost $6K determined he didn’t attend 30 committee meetings.
The agenda was quite packed for a Special Meeting of Council. The focus in this post is on: 4. e) Planning Report and Resolutions: i. Angus Drive / St. Peters Road Reconsideration
The outcome of the rezoning application Request for Reconsideration resolution was published after second reading on July 5 in The Guardian. During the meeting, City Planner Laurel Palmer Thompson mentioned the letters received for and against the rezoning reconsideration: “… something like 27 letters in support, and something like 7 letters in opposition. They were all included in the package.” [Note: letter = email]
The Public Meeting (June 22) package contained 4 letters from businesses in favour of the reconsideration, and 1 letter from a resident against (pages 66–73). A supplementary package contained letters received from June 16 to 22 with 2 letters in support and 3 letters in opposition. This adds up to 6 letters in support and 4 in opposition, nowhere near the approximately 27 and 7 mentioned by Thompson.
Thus began a series of e-mails to the Planning Department to enquire (a) about the missing letters and (b) the absence of Special Meeting of Council meeting packages online.
The response from the City’s Records Management Clerk to (b) was: “At this time, the City does not post Special Meeting of Council packages on our website. As per the Municipal Government Act of PEI [Section 121], the City is only required to publish a notice (agenda) on the website and post a copy of the notice at a location at City Hall where it may be seen by the public; at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting.”
The response to (a) was that the missing letters were included in the Special Meeting of Council package.
A follow-up question was sent to the Planning Department: “Would it be possible to create another document with those letters and file it under 2021 Public Meeting Packages?”
Reply from the Planning Department: “Since these letters were included in the package for Council’s special meeting and are not available online at this time, I have added the document with these additional letters (received after June 22) under 2021 Public Meeting packages.” Thank you!
An analysis of the document found that it contained twenty-four letters/e-mails, which varied in length and content. While nineteen expressed support for the roundabout, only one referred to the reconsideration request and only one other mentioned the rezoning application. Fifteen of the writers live on the east side of St Peters Rd (i.e. Oakland Estates subdivision). The five who expressed their opposition, and their reasons, referred to the request for reconsideration on the rezoning application.
The City—and the Province—did an extremely poor job handling this rezoning application and the request for reconsideration, leaving no room for a fair and reasonable discussion among citizens to work together on a solution that could have united and appeased residents on both sides of St Peters Road. It is no surprise that the messy process ended on such a discordant note, leaving a number of residents bitter and in anguish … and one businessman laughing all the way to the bank.
July 5 Special Meeting of Council
Another busy agenda that included the second reading of a revised rezoning resolution for a lot on Angus Drive and a lot on St Peters Road (both from Residential to Parking – housing crisis, anyone?), the “Marshfield Annexation” (closed session, IRAC involved, postponed to Monday), and verbatim requests, a topic of interest since late April.
CAO Peter Kelly has proposed ending the decades-long practice of verbatim account requests. What does this mean?
A verbatim account is a word-for-word transcript of a debate or a discussion — in part of in full — between two or more individuals during a Council or a committee meeting. A verbatim account request can be made, for instance, by the Planning Department (e.g. IRAC hearing) or by a councillor.
Mr Kelly stated that most municipalities do not provide verbatim minutes of meetings. That is probably true because minutes, by their very definition, are “a summarized record of the proceedings at a meeting” (Oxford).
Mayor Brown also used the term ‛verbatim minutesʼ, an oxymoron, because meeting minutes are meant to record resolutions, actions, decisions and votes.
I would argue that meeting minutes and an excerpt of a debate are not one and the same.
Councillor Jankov raised the issue early on about the poor quality of the sound recording equipment and proposed deferring a vote.
Councillor Duffy lead the charge on ending the practice, asserting that anyone with five minutes of training can type up their own verbatim accounts, and that the live closed captioning (CC) option is ideal for people with a hearing problem. Key problem: CC does not identify who is speaking. Also, the text just runs on … so if two people speak at the same time, you can imagine how much sense the words make. And, every now and then, a sentence is not captured, to the detriment of a non-hearing reader.
Councillor Tweel, who has made the most requests for verbatim accounts, defended the practice.
Later, Duffy stated that itʼs not a question of a verbatim account request being handled, but who will do it. Is this contradicting Mr Kellyʼs goal to abolish to practice?
Mayor Brown can talk about this Council being open, transparent and accountable, but is it really if it excludes people living with a vision or hearing or reading disability?
In the end, the motion was to defer a vote until after better audio equipment is installed. (What about video?)
Below are a few examples of CC screen shots taken during the video recording of this meeting:
Municipal officials, elected and otherwise, have been pulling out the stops to push through this rezoning application. It seems no effort is spared to manipulate an application, at both the residentsʼ and the publicʼs cost. Just as no effort is being spared to ensure Killam/APMʼs Sherwood Crossing, and other developments, and more roads, will be built in Sherwood … on undeveloped land to boot.
Please share this post or the link to the agenda with family, friends, neighbours. If you or they cannot attend this meeting, please watch it online. Numbers count. Community counts. Our rights as citizens count.
PUBLIC MEETING AGENDA NOTICE OF MEETING Tuesday, June 22, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Victorian Room, Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, 75 Kent Street (Also accessible via Videoconference (Webex) and live stream at www.charlottetown.ca/video)
Call to Order
Declaration of Conflicts
Approval of Agenda
Discussions: a) Reconsideration for Angus Drive (Lot 40) (PID #419143) & 413 St. Peters Road (PID #419135) Please be advised that on Monday, May 31, 2021, Council reviewed their decision of April 26, 2021 to reject the request to: • Amend Appendix G –Zoning Map of the Zoning & Development Bylaw for: -Angus Drive (Lot 40) (PID #419143) from Single Detached Residential (Large) (R-1L) Zone to Mixed Use Corridor (MUC) Zone; and -413 St. Peters Road (PID #419135) from Low Density Residential (R-2) Zone to Mixed Use Corridor (MUC) Zone; •Amend Appendix A-Future Land Use Map of the Official Plan Map for: -Angus Drive (Lot 40) (PID #419143) & 413 St. Peters Road (PID #419135) from Mature Neighbourhood to Village Centre Commercial; •And further, to consolidate Angus Drive (Lot 40) (PID #419143), 413 St. Peters Road (PID #419135) and 419 St. Peters Road (PID #192187),
in order to facilitate road upgrades by the Province to St. Peters Road and construct a second means of access for the convenience store to and from Angus Drive.
Section 3.15 of the Zoning and Development Bylaw (the “ZD Bylaw”) permits an aggrieved person to request a reconsideration by Council if it is determined that the original decision rendered by Council satisfied a prescribed threshold test. Council has determined that this application did meet the threshold test and have scheduled a public meeting to provide the applicant, the developer and affected property owners or their representatives an opportunity to present their submissions.
Introduction of New Business
Adjournment of Public Session
For contact tracing purposes and due to the room capacity limit of 100 seats, those wishing to participate in person must register in advance and adhere to the guidelines set by the Chief Public Health Officer, details of which are available online at www.princeedwardisland.ca/covid19. Those who are unable or uncomfortable attending in person can participate in the public meeting via videoconference (Webex). Anyone who wants to observe the meeting without commenting can watch it at http://www.charlottetown.ca/video. To register to attend the meeting either in person or by alternate means, residents are requested to contact the Planning & Heritage Department by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902-629-4158 on or before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 18, 2021 to provide their contact details (name, phone number and/or email address). Once the maximum capacity has been reached, residents will be advised to participate in the meeting by videoconference (Webex). Business hours are between 8:00 AM –4:00 PM, Monday –Friday. Staff will contact interested participants no later 4:00 p.m. on Monday, June 21, 2021 with details on how to participate in the meeting. The City encourages written submissions to Council be received prior to the public meeting. Notwithstanding, all written submissions by letter may be delivered to the City’s Planning & Heritage Department at P.O. Box 98, 199 Queen Street, Charlottetown, PE, C1A 7K2; or, comments may be emailed to email@example.com on or before 12:00 noon on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. All responses received will become part of the public record. Oral submissions or comments may be made at the public meeting, but residents are requested to please keep their oral submissions to a three (3) to five (5) minute maximum.
The Planning Board meeting to review the Request for Reconsideration filed by Dan MacIsaac, President of Mel’s, on Tuesday, 25 May, lasted only thirty minutes, so watching the video recording won’t take too much of anyone’s time.
Councillor Julie McCabe summed up the situation quite succinctly [19:15]: “I believe this is a provincial problem.”
While the outcome was not unexpected (8–1 in favour to endorse the request), it was Mr Forbes’s undeniable support for the reconsideration that was quite revealing. More on that below.
(1) Two neighbourhoods on opposite sides of the road
In a cunning move, Stephen Yeo, chief engineer with the Department of Transportation informed CBC on 20 May of a possible cost-effective but deceptive alternative to the roundabout in the form of a central island (aka median strip), after Charlottetown’s City Council rejected the Province’s assumed acceptance of the Angus Drive exit from Mel’s Convenience store.
On Thursday, 27 May, an interview by CBC morning show host Mitch Cormier with a Hanmac Street resident added another dimension to the St Peters Road/Angus Drive roundabout boondoggle*.
Intentionally or not, the St Peters Road/Angus Drive provincial/municipal project is not only pitting one neighbourhood against another, it also risks bringing two City councillors into conflict with each other. By some quirk of geography, St Peters Road marks the boundary between Ward 9 (north side) and Ward 10 (south side).
Moreover, the CBC article states: “The province said that decision made the proposed roundabout unsafe and presented a new plan without it.” The Planning Board’s meeting package included no drawing with this new plan. Perhaps it will be included in the meeting package of the Special Meeting of Council scheduled for Monday, 31 May, which has a packed agenda: seven items of discussion with the Reconsideration fifth in line.
(2) Two neighbourhoods: double standards
Let’s go back to the Planning Board meeting for the ‘or twoʼ tale of two neighbourhoods.
Alex Forbes, Manager of the Planning & Heritage Department, presented his report on the Request for Reconsideration submitted by Dan MacIssac, President of Melʼs. The gist of the request is based on new information provided by the province about the interdependence of the proposed (provincial) roundabout and the proposed (municipal) Angus Drive exit for traffic leaving Mel’s [go to 13:25 in video recording]. Mr Forbes expressed his opinion that this new information was somehow not clearly conveyed during the 23 March public meeting by the three presenters. Furthermore, he advised the Planning Board that Council can reconsider the rezoning application in favour of Mel’s. Were this to occur, another public meeting would be held to convey all the additional relevant facts.
Compare this with the APM Sherwood Crossing1 rezoning applicationand subsequent resolution, which Council approved in a 6–3 vote on 14 December 2020, [A] even thoughthe related Sherwood-area traffic study (later dubbed the ‘West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan’) was presumably still being completed at the timethe 26 August public meeting took place; [B]even though the Sherwood-area traffic study was presented to City Council on 29 October at a closed session of a Special Meeting of Council; and [C] even though Councillor Tweel asked twice (9 November and 14 December) that Council approve a second public meeting, given the new information received by Councilon 29 October about future roads for planned developments in the Sherwood neighbourhood. His request was denied both times.
Here is what Councillor Duffy said during the 14 December Monthly Meeting of Council: “People seem to think the larger one [traffic study] is to validate or confirm Sherwood Crossing in place when it actually has nothing to do with that. It had a bearing, but the approval or not of Sherwood Crossing is not contingent upon the master traffic plan” [video1:00:20 and 2:06:25].
A tale of two governments
It should be remembered that The Guardian reported on the $20 million St Peters Road plan to ‘fix traffic headachesʼ on 21 February 2020. (To set the date in context, the coronavirus was still ‘only’ an epidemic and centred in Asia and on cruise ships.)
The article stated: Speaking before an audience of about 100 residents at the Hillsborough Community Centre on Thursday, P.E.I.’s chief engineer Stephen Yeo said the corridor sees about 1,500 vehicles per hour during peak times. “We could be up to over 2,600 vehicles per hour turning down St. Peters Road [by 2029].”
A progressive government, provincial or municipal, no longer ‘fixes traffic headachesʼ with new roads or roundabouts. A progressive government invests in a combination of interdependent public transportation and active travel. A progressive government strives to reduce car dependence, and promote low-carbon urbanization. A progressive government uses public money for the common good of its citizens and for the community as a whole.
Instead, two levels of government continue to make unpredictable moves in a politically orchestrated attempt to satisfy the desires of a local business owner and to justify expensive, publicly funded roadworks, and in so doing, bringing emotional turmoil to numerous citizens.
Will Monday’s meeting see City councillors influenced to vote a certain way or will cooler heads and moral conscience prevail?
I’m not the type to resort to Shakespeare, but something Alex Forbes said during the Planning Board meeting [29:15] listing the three parties ‘who have an interestʼ got me thinking about the number three in Macbeth. When the hurly-burlyʼs done is from Act 1, Scene 1.
*Boondoggle (n. informal North American): An unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulent project.
1 IRAC hearing LA21001 – Read v. City of Charlottetown is scheduled for Monday, 31 May 2021. Grounds for appeal: Failure to consult and inform public on City’s Master Traffic Plan with respect to Sherwood Crossing rezoning application.
On 12 April, City Councillors voted 8–1to reject the resolution on this rezoning application, with Coun. Duffy the only one in favour.
“It would be too much traffic for this residential street. I’m glad council saw it our way.”
Angus Drive resident Paul McGonnell was pleased with Council’s decision.
Yesterday, on 18 May, the agenda for a special meeting of the Planning Board, scheduled for Tuesday, 25 May, was posted. The main topic: Reconsideration request for Angus Drive (Lot 40) (PID #419143) & 413 St. Peters Road (PID #419135).
3.15.1 If a Permit or other approval under this by-law is granted, not granted, or granted subject to conditions and the applicant or an aggrieved person feels the decision is unjustified or unwarranted under this by-law, the applicant or an aggrieved person may seek a reconsideration by Council.
3.15.2 An aggrieved person or an applicant wishing to launch a reconsideration shall make known their intention to do so and the grounds or reasons within twenty-one (21) calendar days of the initial decision.
3.15.3 Council may review, rescind, change or vary any order or decision made by the Development Officer or by Council provided that:
New material facts or evidence not available at the time of the initial order or decision have come to light;
A material change of circumstances has occurred since the initial order or decision; or
There is a clear doubt as to the correctness of the order or decision in the first instance.
3.15.4 A letter shall be sent by ordinary mail explaining the reconsideration request to all Affected Property Owners within 100 m (328.1 ft) of the boundaries of the subject Lot identifying the subject Lot.
3.15.5 Council shall hear any request for reconsideration of a decision under this section and Council shall give all interested persons an opportunity to be heard and make a determination on a request for reconsideration.
3.15.6 The City is not liable for any Development commenced prior to the lapse of the twenty-one (21) calendar day appeal period.
3.15.7 The City shall not consider an application for reconsideration if, at the same time, there is an appeal filed with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission; but the City may proceed with reconsideration if the applicant has instructed the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission in writing to hold the appeal in abeyance, and the Commission has agreed in writing to hold their appeal until the appellant has exhausted the recourse of reconsideration with the City.
Coun. Duffy saidaround six people gave their opinions at a public meeting and about eight letters were sent. He said he doesn’t think that should be enough to kill a project.
Duffy said the developer can offer another solution that can be brought back to council. He’s hoping to see a solution offered that is acceptable to all parties at the regular council meeting next month.
Posted: 19 May 2021 at 12:32 p.m. | Updated: 19 May 2021 at 8:35 p.m.
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?
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.
While the Closed Captioning (CC) feature is an option, it does not capture every word perfectly, and does not identify the speaker.
Meeting packages for Special Council meetings are not available online.
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.
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.”
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.
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).