Update (6): ‘When the hurly-burly’s done’ on Angus Drive

A tale, or two, of two neighbourhoods

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 application and subsequent resolution, which Council approved in a 6–3 vote on 14 December 2020,
[A] even though the related Sherwood-area traffic study (later dubbed the ‘West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan’) was presumably still being completed at the time the 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 Council on 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” [video 1:00:20 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.

Recent goings-on at City Hall (Part 3)

Monday, 10 May: Regular Meeting of Council

Video recording available on the City’s YouTube channel

Resolution: 151 UPPER PRINCE STREET

The application for this property involved three major variances: (1) Lot frontage reduced from 98 ft to 51 1/2 ft; (2) Flankage yard setback from nearly 20 ft to 10 ft; (3) Flankage yard setback for a balcony from nearly 16 ft to under 8 ft.

Planning staff recommended approval of the first two variances, and rejection of the balcony variance.

Flankage Yard means the Side Yard of a Corner Lot, and which Side Yard abuts a Street or proposed Street shown on an approved survey plan. Required Flankage Yard or minimum Flankage Yard means the minimum Side Yard required by this by-law where such Yard abuts a Street.

38:00 CAO Peter Kelly reads the 151 Upper Prince St. resolution involving three major variances. 
41:40 Coun. Greg Rivard questions the rejection of the setback for the balcony, saying it has value by offering outdoor living space. Mayor Brown asks whether he wants to make a friendly amendment.
42:08 Coun. Terry MacLeod bring up past application by the same developer and says: “Weʼve talked about this before, now we keep letting developers off the hook [like Tim Banks, maybe?] and making changes after weʼve approved them, so…”
43:50 Alex Forbes: “They have to adhere to the Zoning Bylaw…”
Back and forth between Coun. MacLeodʼs complaint and Coun. Rivardʼs issue with the balcony variance rejection.
49:55 Friendly amendment to approve the balcony variance moved by Coun. Rivard.
The vote in favour of the friendly amendment and the amended resolution is 8–1 (Coun. MacLeod opposed).
51:15 End of that application. Total time devoted to a balcony issue for a three-unit apartment building: thirteen minutes.

Compare that to the time spent on the 199 Grafton Street application with seven variances for a 84-unit apartment/parking complex: under six minutes.

Sir John A statue

1:35:45 CAO Peter Kelly read the resolution about the John A statue. Coun. Duffy expressed extreme concern about being seen to vote against John A MacDonald remaining on Queen Street (1:44).

1:46:10 Mayor Brown, speaking from the Chair, explained to Coun. Duffy: “And remember we were asked, or Coun. McCabe was asked, to get the three organizations supporting the recommendations. And all three do support them.” Mayor Brown seemed to have forgotten that the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils made the recommendations.

1:57:00 Objections and resistance by Councillors Ramsay (with motorcycle noise in the background), MacLeod, Ramsay, and Duffy clearly reveal they have failed to educate themselves about the repercussions of colonialism and the need to recognize and redress past wrongs to Indigenous peoples.


Excerpts from the CBC article posted on May 12:

The Epekwitk  Assembly of Councils said it had made five suggestions to the city to amend the art installation and “tell the true story of this individual and begin to address the trauma that its presence is continuing to perpetuate,” the statement said.

  1. Add another figure, such as an Indigenous child or elder.
  2. Fill in or seal off the empty space on the bench so it can’t be used for photo opportunities.
  3. Install signage so viewers 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’kmaw artist should be hired as a consultant.
  5. Complete the work as soon as reasonably possible.

Councillors raised several questions leading up to the vote, such as who will pay for the modifications, where the new signage and Indigenous statue will be placed and how the empty space on the bench will be filled in to discourage photo opportunities.

Some councillors asked whether the recommendations were negotiable. One suggestion raised during discussion was putting the new statue of the Indigenous figure in a different place.

Recommended reading for the Mayor and members of City Council: The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports, in particular The Survivors Speak and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

Posted: 15 May 2021 at 8:24 am | Updated 15 May 2021 at 9:06 pm


Related posts:

Recent goings-on at City Hall (Part 2)
The ongoing saga of Sir John A. statue

Recent goings-on at City Hall (Part 2)

Monday, 10 May: Regular Meeting of Council

Video recording available on the City’s YouTube channel

Resolution: 199 Grafton Street

51:27 Introduction of the 199 Grafton St. resolution involving seven — many major — variances and exemptions. 
55:46 Reading of variances and exemptions completed. Comment “Do you need some water after that?” (speaker unknown), followed by general LAUGHTER 
55:51 “Could you repeat that [list]?” (speaker unknown). Followed by MORE LAUGHTER 
55:58 “Councillor Duffy do you want to speak to this?” (speaker unknown) 
“What more can be said??” (speaker unknown). Followed by EVEN MORE LAUGHTER. 

Resolution passed, with no discussion. It took more time to read the lengthy list of variances and exemptions … 

Neither the scale of this proposal nor the consequences of the requested variances are in any way laughing matters. The behaviour demonstrated by this council shows a complete disrespect for their elected office and the residents who put them there. 

Local media reports

CBC headline: “84-unit Grafton Street apartment passes first reading” followed by “Council voted 9-0 to proceed with the APM project”.
Two persons were interviewed for this article: APM president Tim Banks; and Planning Board Chair Mike Duffy.

Only a passing reference was made to the public meeting held in April, “where some residents expressed concerns over the height of the building as well as how it would fit in the historic area.”

As for The Guardian, no report was found in either online version (Web page or Saltwire edition).

Citizen Satisfaction Survey

Earlier in the meeting, the results of the Citizen Satisfaction Survey were presented. 

[Video 13:07] Planning Services (rezoning) had the worst performance rating (51%). Reasons provided in the survey from dissatisfied respondents: 

  • “The city works far too closely with developers to approve inappropriate development. I think the city needs a better development strategy that is holistic, rather than ad hoc.” 
  • “It depends on who you are and what you want to do. There’s too much favouritism.” 
  • “Inability or unwillingness to enforce their bylaws. They’re not holding people accountable to follow the bylaws” 
  • “More community involvement would be preferred.”

Related posts:

  • 30 April: Historic 500 Lot Area building standards and guidelines
  • 29 April: Update: 199 Grafton – Public meeting (April 27, 2021)
  • 26 April: Public Meeting 27 April: New building at 199 Grafton Street
  • 21 March: Will the 15 Haviland flawed approval process be repeated at 199 Grafton?

With contributions from Andrea Battison.

West Royalty Traffic Plan and proposed Sherwood Crossing development

In May 2019, Killam REIT announced the purchase of 50% of RioCan REIT’s Charlottetown Mall property, “with future multi-family development opportunities of up to 300 units.”

In February 2020, those 300 units moved to undeveloped land on the other side of the Confederation Trail (aka Rails to Trails). As reported by CBC: “Developer Tim Banks told CBC News his company, Pan American Properties, plans to build 300 units over the next decade on about six hectares off of Towers Road.

The Killam/RioCan/APM residential development was presented in a public meeting on August 26, 2020, as part of a rezoning application. All the other pieces around it have been handled piecemeal by the City, before and after that date. In so doing, City Council failed to duly inform the public in accordance with the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw #2020-CC-01, Part II – Principles, Section 8.4. “Members of Council are responsible for the decisons 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”; and Section 8.8. “Members of Council have a duty to demonstrate openness and transparency about their decisions and actions.” 

Timeline

Feb. 7, 2020: The City’s Capital Budget was approved. The Guardian reported: “The capital budget also includes $650,000 that will enable the city to create a road that links Towers Road up with Spencer Drive, giving traffic the option of bypassing the parking lot at the rear of the Charlottetown Mall. And while no one will say anything on the record, the city is also looking into extending Spencer Drive to Mount Edward Road.”

Mar. 17, 2020: Premier King announced that the provincial cabinet had declared a state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act. (COVID-19)

Mar. 19, 2020: Special Meeting of Council (vote 9–0 in favour): Resolution 4 (c) “[…] That the submission from CBCL Ltd. to perform a comprehensive traffic study of undeveloped lands adjacent to the main retail area of Charlottetown, as additional work to the City’s Growth Management Study, be accepted.” Cost $69,000. City of Charlottetown website

April 12, 2020: “The Public Works Department would like to advise the public that negotiations are underway regarding the section of private road located between Towers Road and Spencer Drive.” City of Charlottetown website

Aug. 5, 2020: New Road Construction – Towers Road to Spencer Drive (Invitation To Tender) – Closing date Aug. 19

Aug. 26, 2020: Public Meeting held at the Rodd Royalty Hotel, Charlottetown. Presentation starts at 1:37:00 in the video. Documents available at charlottetown.ca.

Aug. 27, 2020: CBC’s headline Proposed Charlottetown housing development raises questions about traffic

Oct. 29, 2020: In a closed session at a Special Meeting, Council received a presentation regarding the traffic study from CBCL engineers and authorized CAO Peter Kelly to expedite the purchase of two properties [241/245 Mt Edward Rd], to be leased back to the occupants for two years.

Feb. 8, 2021: Monthly Meeting of Council (vote 6–3 in favour): Council authorized the increase in the 20/21 Capital Budget of $550,000 to fund the purchase of two properties (241 and 245 Mount Edward Rd). These properties face Ash Drive and stand in the way of the Spencer Drive extension, which is on Killam/RioCan/APM’s proposed Sherwood Crossing development property. It is worth noting that the City’s Public Works Department will act as property manager for a two-year period.

Feb. 26, 2021: The City posts an announcement on its Web site: “CITY REQUESTS INPUT ON TRAFFIC MASTER PLAN” with details on how to access the traffic plan and ends with “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.” The Guardian publishes the announcement on March 12, the CBC posts an article on March 16, presumably in response to a letter I sent on March 11 to ask why the media has failed to inform the public.

“Good or bad we want to hear about what everyone’s concerned about.”

And moving forward, Adams said the plan will be brought to city council and hopefully put in place for when developments begin. 

CBC “Charlottetown seeking input on new roads in West Royalty” (March 16, 2021)

April 13, 2021: The City posts another announcement with the date of the public meeting (7 p.m., Monday, April 26, Confederation Centre of the Arts). Neither local newspaper The Guardian nor CBC PEI have reported the new details so far.

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

Public Meeting: West Royalty Transportation Master Plan

Background

The words “traffic study” and “traffic master plan” were used interchangeably last year during the North of Towers, a.k.a. Sherwood Crossing, rezoning application meetings. Despite requests by citizens for a copy of the traffic study, the City consistently refused, partly on the grounds that the two were not connected, partly because it would call a public meeting in future. In a 6–3 City Council vote on December 14, 2020, the rezoning application for the future Killam/APM development located within the traffic study area was approved.

On April 13, the City announced that the Public Works department is hosting a public consultation on Monday, April 26 at the Homburg Theatre (Confederation Centre of the Arts). The purpose is to provide prepare a final West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan based on public input received during a one-meeting, two-hour ‛consultation processʼ.

When a slide presentation of the traffic study was released to the public in February, it bore the title SDU & Area Vacant Lands—Transportation Master Plan.

In March, when the Draft Final Report posted on the City’s website, it was renamed West Royalty Commercial Area—Transportation Master Plan.

What is a Transportation Master Plan [TMP]?

It is a document that guides a municipality’s transportation investment and activities, and typically uses a strategic framework that incorporates the Cityʼs vision, feedback from the community, and an analysis of transportation challenges and opportunities.

The City of Courtenay, B.C., (2016 pop. 54,157) presents an excellent example with its completed 2019 Transportation Master Plan.

Transportation … or Traffic?

The Transportation Master Plan document created by CBCL, whose mission“is to provide world-class engineering and environmental services” (no Transportation Planning in its list of ‛Solutionsʼ), states the following in the Executive Summary:

Note fourth line: ‛to forecast the growth of vehicular travel demand’

Nearly 35 pages are filled with details of the traffic analysis zones and roughly 40 pages with traffic data.

What about other modes of transportation?

Section 4.2. Active Transportation: “AT design focused on the human experience will positively influence mode choice among residents and visitors, and help to reduce the negative effects of a transportation system dominated by motorized vehicles.”

Section 4.3. Transit: “Future roadways and development site plans within the study area should be designed with transit connectivity in mind include adequate lighting and signage at stops; safe, comfortable shelters; and good active transportation connections.”

Section 4.4. entitled Sherwood Residential Area appears to have been added to soothe local residentsʼ fears about increased traffic. (Not a joke.)

The cover letter to Scott Adams, Manager of Public Works, states:

CBCL Limited (CBCL) is pleased to present the findings of this comprehensive study of vacant lands adjacent to the main commercial area of Charlottetown. We understand there is increasing pressure from several property owners, primarily north and east of the Charlottetown Mall, to obtain City approval to move forward with various development plans. The main objective of this Transportation Master Plan is to assist City staff by providing strategies for future development and street connections to the existing road network needed to support this growth.

Posted: April 19, 2021 | Last Updated: April 22, 2021

GUEST OPINION: Mayor of Charlottetown has too much influence, not enough leadership

Posted with author’s permission.
Originally published in The Guardian on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

At the municipal level, the buck stops at the mayor’s desk. He or she is expected to lead and provide wise direction, especially in a place like Charlottetown, our capital city, Birthplace of Confederation, and one of the finest and most beautiful cities anywhere. However, our current mayor seems missing in action on the leadership side.

Examples of his unacceptable leadership as mayor include the following:

It is unacceptable when a highly respected Charlottetown architect’s firm places first in the competition to design a third city fire station, but instead, the city awards the tender to a lower-placed firm. It is even more concerning when other leading architectural firms courageously speak out against the inappropriate City Hall decision and say they are losing faith in the city’s tendering process, and go on to say “it’s an embarrassment throughout the Atlantic region for our city hall.” And the Mayor’s pathetic response: “Anytime you do something and issue an RFP, you’ll get feedback.” If Mayor Brown is still around for the 2023 Canada Games, will he want to award the gold to the third-place finishers?

It is unacceptable recently when the city’s proposed 2021 budget seemed to be off by about $2.5 million in the calculations, that Mayor Brown proposed that council approve the budget anyway and hopefully find the missing money later. How can citizens/taxpayers have confidence in such judgment and leadership when he is so cavalier about millions of taxpayer’s dollars?

It is unacceptable that the mayor is a member of every city committee and has input and voting rights on every committee. He has far too much influence on every matter proceeding through committee stages, and he has shown no hesitation to use that influence to advance or thwart various matters involving the city. In a December 2019 City Remuneration Report, the authors (Gerard Mitchell, retired Supreme Court judge; George MacDonald, former Charlottetown mayor; and Stan MacPherson, accounting firm principal) expressed a number of concerns regarding city operations, and they suggested consideration of “revising the Municipal Government Act so that the mayor of Charlottetown is not a voting member of council committees. The mayor’s vote should be reserved for breaking ties at council meetings.” Needless to say, Mayor Brown has not advanced that proposal which would greatly roll back his powers.

It is unacceptable that the mayor does not excuse himself, at the committee and council level, from city development decisions, given that his bio states that he “works with the family business (EB Brown’s Transport and Crane Service) as a business accountant and public relations officer.” His firm is also a member of the Construction Association of P.E.I. and Philip Brown is listed there as the contact. We have seen in the examples above that Mayor Brown seems to play fast and loose with city tendering processes and city budgeting, but he is also in the construction business at a time when the city is allowing and enabling approval of some weakly scrutinized construction projects city-wide, sometimes with little or no regard for neighbourhood impacts or bylaw provisions.

It is unacceptable that the Mayor Brown administration frequently calls special meetings of council (which are for the purpose of dealing with urgent matters that cannot wait until the next regularly scheduled council meeting) and also frequently goes into closed sessions with no public access. For example, during the previous administration from 2015-2018, there was an average of six special meetings of council (urgent meetings) per year. With the Brown administration, there have been 38 in 2019, and a further 38 such meetings of council in 2020. Why?

Special Council Meetings 2019-2020 (source: City of Charlottetown)

Finally, it is unacceptable that since Mayor Brown came to power, almost every neighbourhood in the city has had to defend itself from questionable city hall decisions. The result has been IRAC appeals, neighbourhood campaigns like Save Simmons, Save Sherwood, Save Our Waterfront, and it gets worse by the day. There is little or no respect shown by the mayor for our bylaws, our neighbourhoods, our tendering processes, our tax money, and on and on. We are too good a city and a province to continue putting up with this nonsense. I hope Mayor Brown will either quickly get his act together or recognize that the position of mayor may be too much for him.

Doug MacArthur is co-ordinator of Future of Charlottetown.