Municipal Council practices 101; developer learns he got an F – Mayor Goldring clues him in.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 14, 2011 – It was a lesson in municipal civics that George Bikas of Drewlo Developments isn’t likely to forget. He got his throat slit at a Council meeting but didn’t know he had been injured until the Mayor explained that the process was and what the result was for the developer.

Few people fully understand the City Council process and think that when Council meets all kinds of decisions get made – and that part is true – BUT the discussion and the back and forth between staff and Council members and any member of the public wanting to make a delegation takes place at the committee level and for Drewlo Developments that happened on May 30th.

The decision made at the committee level is more of a recommendation than a cast in stone decision. Council can either accept the committee decision or debate it if they wish, but they usually end up doing so with out the benefit of input from staff on hand.

A Council meeting is just that – a meeting of the Council with just the city manager and the Clerk in attendance unless someone asks for other staff people to attend.

Large five building apartment complex on Plains Road, a problem since its inception, may get shut down over a difference of opinion about the construction of a fifth entrance/exit to the underground garage.

Large five building apartment complex on Plains Road, a problem since its inception, may get shut down over a difference of opinion about the construction of a fifth entrance/exit to the underground garage.

Thus George Bikas, Manager, Land Development for Drewlo Holdings appeared before Council to delegate with the objective of trying to convince council NOT to un-delegate the site plan Drewlo was working under.

Some background: Drewlo is developing a five unit apartment complex on Plains Road and the issue at hand was the elimination of a fifth entrance to the massive parking garage beneath the five building complex. The first two buildings are operational with three and four under construction And the developer hoping to also develop the fifth building. That won’t be happening any time soon..

When a development has been approved and the appropriate by-laws and zoning changes made the process of monitoring the actual development is “delegated” from council to the Planning department. The city says “we have approved it” you, the Planning department, make sure the developer does what he is supposed to do.

Planning then oversees the development work issues the building permits required at various stages of the construction. Drewlo happens to have a poor reputation wit not only the residents in the immediate area and with the local council member but with the planning department as well.

A number of months ago the planners noticed that a fifth entrance down into the underground garage had been eliminated. The developer now says it was an honest mistake but they also said they had no intention of rectifying their “mistake” The planner, Bruce Krushelnicki who know a major problem when he sees one appeared before Council and asked that the supervising of the site plans be passed back to the appropriate committee – in other words “un-delegated”. He could see this going to the Ontario Municipal Board and he wanted to be sure the city had all its documents in order. The city listened to the planner at the Committee level and agreed there that this project should be un-delegated and at Council last night – the full Council concurred at the site is now in the hands of the committee, which is a very awkward place for a developer to be.

The city had “chopped off the developers head” but he didn’t know what had happened. His objective was to convince Council that this was just a minor oversight that really wasn’t that important and that one fewer garage entranced/exists wasn’t going to make that much difference and that in two weeks they would have a traffic study supporting their position. Council didn’t buy it.

Robert Cooper, representing the residents in the area spoke forcefully for his neighbours at the committee level and was on the list to speak again at the Council meeting but declined to say anything. He could see where things were going and was quite content with putting a stop to the developers arbitrary behavior.

Bikas, representing the developer said that work on the construction site could come to a halt and the developer could move on to a different construction site and that if they sought an OMB hearing that could delay things for as much as a year – which seemed to be just fine with this Council.

Garage entrance exit problems may bring construction of the project to a halt.

Garage entrance exit problems may bring construction of the project to a halt.

Flout the rules and mess around with the planning department and you get your knuckles wrapped. The solution for Drewlo is to find a way to get that fifth entrance/exit in place fast.

The planners are now putting together a detailed report which will be given to the committee that has responsibility for the site and its development. That report gets written in language that Bruce Krushelnicki calls “bullet proof” because he fully expects his staff to have to defend the position his office took in deciding to ask a Council committee to take it off his hands.

The extent of the extremely poor working relationship between the developer and the residents was set out in correspondence the Ward councillor released in which he asked for meetings with the developer to try and resolve the differences. The developers chose not to take advantage of the office of the ward councillor Rick Craven. Construction on the site may soon come to a halt.

Residents now have some leverage over the development. The developer will produce a traffic study which the residents want to see done by the city and not a company chosen by the developer.

The planners report and its recommendations will come to a Council committee in a couple of weeks. Will the Planning department heed the shift in thinking being seen at Council and involve the residents in the discussions that could produce a solution or will the residents have to wait for an OMB hearing and make their case at that level.



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