Council gets lauded for being leaders at community engagement - then goes mute when the biggest development the city has seen in some time is in front of them

By Pepper Parr

January 17th, 2022


Council has been holding a number of Closed session meetings – all kinds of litigation taking place.

What perplexes a number of people is the way the City Clerk words the motions that are used to make holding a Closed session legal. That is shown in the agenda as:  “Confidential update on a litigation matter”; a polite question would be – which litigation matter? – the public has no idea which matter they are talking about.

Providing the address of the property isn’t giving away any secrets and the public at least knows something is taking place.

All the public learns is that: Pursuant to section 239(2)(e) of the Municipal Act, litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board.

This is what you have now …..

Of current concern are the plans for the redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel site,  2020 Lakeshore Road.  This is a very contentious development – quite why the members of city council go along with the city legal Counsel and the Clerk holding their cards so close to their chest, at the same time telling the world that they have the best community engagement record in the country, is what is referred to as talking out of both sides of your mouth.  This of course gets done with the blessing of the city manager who appears to like things that way.

The practice is for Council to come out of Closed session and announce a Staff Direction which goes something like this: the Executive Director of Legal Services is directed to do what was agreed upon in the closed session.

Sometimes, rarely, Council will then go into Open session and there will be discussion about what took place in the Closed session.

…this is what the developer has in mind. They have submitted their development application – city planners say it isn’t complete.

As a reporter, I’ve always wondered why the Chairs of the Standing Committees don’t have the courage to  stand up and report to the public what took place.

Last week, after lengthy Closed session (it started at 1:00 pm and ended at 6:35 pm) Council reverted to an Open session and for a moment it looked as if they were going to say something publicly about what had taken place.  Mayor Meed Ward certainly expected something would be made public and something to the effect that the motion was written to allow something to be said.

Councillor Galbraith and the Committee Clerk didn’t have the same understanding – the Mayor said she would let it go to the Council meeting later in the month.

So we will hear what is happening to the development application for 2020 Lakeshore Road, the Waterfront Hotel Development site, that has been sent to the Planning department, at the next council meeting.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the amount of time the city has to respond to the development application. If they don’t do so within the required time-frame the matter goes to the Ontario Land Tribunal – and we all know what happens there.


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4 comments to Council gets lauded for being leaders at community engagement – then goes mute when the biggest development the city has seen in some time is in front of them

  • Tom Muir

    Grandfathering does not pertain to a now approval of the project itself, as illustrated and in all aspects of the application. It’s not the project itself that this policy decision relates to.

    The grandfathering pertained to the geographic location of the Urban Growth Centre and if applications were under appeal or had a complete application submitted to and accepted by the City by November 10 2021. It was this UGC location that was changed as of November 10.

    The previous UGC that was changed in this decision allowed for, but did not specify exactly, more height, density, and many other more generous OP and Zoning standards. This change gave the City more control of what can be built in the UGC area that was changed. The proponent seeks of course the old allowances, and wants OLT to give it to them.

    This project is not grandfathered officially yet as Council approved a Dec.17 2021 date for a complete application and this is after the November 10 date.

    To try to get around this the project proponent claims that the application they submitted in October was complete, contrary to the position of the City, which was approved by Council vote in support of a staff report that indicated the application was not complete.

    Given this situation that the proponent did not submit a complete application by November 10, the proponent appealed to OLT for a motion to decide the application submitted when it was in October and judged incomplete by the City, was in fact complete.

    I am further astounded at the corruption of planning and development that the Province has instituted that this maybe possibility that OLT can rule against the City decision that it was not complete. If it is, this is more arbitrary takeover of City planning rights and control to determine what is a complete application worthy of consideration.

    Kiss the City control complete goodbye if the span of power of OLT includes the determination of what needs to be considered for an application to be made to be “complete”. And further explicit in this question, who gets to decide those things.

    Where does one get the proponent argument for this motion to OLT?

    Never mind the costs – what is the cost of self determination and basis freedoms?

    Better get the legals and planning to get the process timeline rights of the City expressed bulletproof in arguments, if in fact the appeal to OLT for this motion to overturn the City decision is real and/or correctly based.

    Anyways, at the moment I don’t see how it could be determined grandfathered now, based on the visible evidence and history.

    The idea that OLT has the authority to rule it as such has serious repercussions that can be translated to basically every application that wants to argue what they have to submit as a complete application. Not a good idea.

    It must be fought in every way – or else.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Engagement? What does that mean anyway? Perhaps engagement it just the warm and fuzzys we get from having our precious 5 minutes in the sun. Unless the message is ignored because we failed to make a point, or the intended recipients of the message either have no questions, or, the more palatable, we did such a good job in our 5 minutes that there are no questions. Engagement-talk aside, memo to council, as it pertains to this development, pay heed to these wise words from Kenny Rogers:
    “If you’re gonna play the game, boy
    You gotta learn to play it right
    You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
    Know when to fold ’em
    Know when to walk away
    And know when to run
    You never count your money
    When you’re sittin’ at the table
    There’ll be time enough for countin’
    When the dealin’s done
    Every gambler knows
    That the secret to survivin’
    Is knowin’ what to throw away
    And knowin’ what to keep
    Sounds like this is a done deal, if so why the smoke and mirrors?

    • Tom Muir

      Kenny Rogers is talking about poker, where we have to assume the rules and odds are fair and known, and everyone plays with the same deck and gets a different hand to judge every deal.

      The problem with applying this to the development example here is that this game is not fair in rules or odds, the rules of how hands are judged are rigged one-sided, and whether you hold ’em, or fold’m, you can’t really do this, to choose to walk away or run.

      You can’t choose what to keep, or what to throw away because the rules as they are now constituted don’t allow you the choice of throwing away or keeping, and you can’t get out of the game.

      Your opponents never have to accept your hands without an appeal to what has been established as a higher authority. The only chance of winning for the City is to play every hand to try and win, under the stated rules, and the inability to get out of the game.

      Just folding and walking away will never end in this situation and make the City planning and development process a farce.

      That’s what going on with this development and with basically every development in the City. The idea that the OLT can have the authority to decide what the City can ask the development to provide as cards in order to start to play, and thus overturn what the City says it needs to have a fair game according to historical rules and odds and dealt hands, means the game is rigged right from the start.

      That’s the real situation here and now. It is not a standard poker game. The Province has become the dealer and sets the rules and you have to play.

      My advice and choice is play to win every hand. Because winning with the hands you have been dealt is still possible, but the hands have to be played like you want to win.

      That is what has become reality.

  • Penny Hersh

    How much can be said about a proposed development that has been grandfathered by the Province?

    This proposed development is just one of many that are taking place along the lakeshore. This area is no longer the gateway to Spencer Smith Park. The approved applications surrounding this site make this another site for development.

    It will be interesting to see how much taxpayer dollars will be spent on trying to defend this application.