This is one OMB hearing that isn`t going to be “dry and technical”. Prepare for some community theatre.


By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 23, 2012   It has the potential to be one of those David and Goliath things – the little guy going up against the big developer who hides behind numbered corporations with lawyers galore involved.

Richard Szymczyk, a Queensway community resident fought along with his neighbours for a different kind of development in his community.  A developer bought up six properties that had small tidy bungalows on lots that were half an acre in size.  He asked the city for a zoning change to permit the building of  a total of 78 townhouses on the assembled land.  There were public meetings, community input, reports from the Planning Department – all the usual stuff surrounding a change in a community.

One of six houses that have been demolished to make way for a 54 unit townhouse development the community is opposed to. Community appeals city zoning decision to the OMB.

The city eventually settled on 54 units and thought the matter was a done deal.  So did the developer – but that`s when Richard Szymczyk said “not so fast” and appealed the city`s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Few people were even aware that the Queensway community existed before the development application came before city Council.  Then when the Bridge over the CN railway tracks that defines the southern edge of the community had to be closed because it was deemed unsafe everyone in the city knew about the place and the city was certainly paying more attention as well.  They have decided to spend close to $400,000 to do a five year patch on the bridge and have made a mental note that sometime after that five year period they are going to have to come up with something in the order of $3 million to either put up a new bridge or tunnel under the railway tracks – but that is in the far off future and that kind of thinking and headache gets left to the city treasurer who has to find the money to pay for these things.

Community residents have held up the construction of these homes as they fight a city decision to change the zoning on six properties.

Right now the city, through the OMB, is going to have to deal with Szymczyk  who is getting ready to put on his armour and do battle with AMR Homes,  known as 1066834 Ontario Limited which seems to be attached to another numbered company that starts with the numbers 938

Szymczyk felt the rezoning was a mistake primarily because of the significant increase in density and the total lack of compatibility with the rest of the community to which Szymczyk  added traffic safety issues.

The planner who represented the developer argued that the development fit in very nicely with the provinces Places to Grow policy that requires Burlington to come up with a significant number of new housing units.  At the time several members of city council was just getting a handle on their jobs and appeared to take the view that growth was required and the Queensway community was as good a place as any to plunk down some townhouses.  The location was very close to the GO station which would give people access to good transit – heck they wouldn’t need a second car in this location.

The arguments for the development and the arguments for cutting it down to size or getting rid of it all together get made before the OMB hearing on April 18th – 10 am in Room 247 at city hall.  The Queensway community is fresh from winning the fight to have their bridge repaired.  They had eight people delegate at a council committee which included young girls reading poetry and very upset young mothers taking several council members to task over their attitude and comments.

The OMB hearing might find itself facing a handful of angry residents.  If it were a weekend or evening event they would pack the room for sure.  What the “guys on the other side” have failed to adequately contend with is Szymczyk  himself.  He was at one point in his career secretary to John Boich when he was with the school board and any one who could work for Boich and last more than a year is someone to be respected and in some circles feared.

Szymczyk  was a school principal and taught at the Fishers Corners School that once served the community but was declared surplus and then torn down to make way for a widened QEW.

Szymczyk  has the capacity to be very, very direct.  Along with his issues with the planning “mistakes” he wants to know why he got telephone calls from someone in the developers office. Szymczyk takes privacy very seriously and getting his personal telephone number is harder than pulling teeth from a hen. Szymczyk  is convinced someone at city hall, he suspects it was within the Planning Department, gave the developer his phone number.

This school was built in 1872 to replace the original log school built in 1835 on one acre of Peter Fisher's farm.The first school, at the corner of Guelph Line and the Middle Road (now the QEW), had been called Fishers Corners School. This more architecturally elegant school was named the Grove Academy, in honour of the bush surrounding it, but continued to be called Fishers Corners. It burned down in March 1924 on a Tuesday afternoon when, owing to the teacher's illness, the school was closed.A third school was built in 1925 and served the area until the QEW overpass was built. Glenwood Public School replaced it in 1946.

The lawyers for the developer asked the OMB to cancel the hearing because, they claimed, Szymczyk no longer lived in the community and therefore had no interest in the matter.  Szymczyk  responds rather haughtily that where he lives is nobody`s business and that he has a right to appeal a city decision if he thinks the change in zoning was a mistake.  Trying to catch Szymczyk  on a technicality is probably a mistake.

It should be quite a hearing.  It certainly won`t be the typical dry, drawn out event – those who are in the room can expect some good theatre.   Szymczyk’s witness list will prove to be interesting.   And someone in the city’s Clerks office should begin preparing an answer for the question: Who gave out Richard  Szymczyk’s  telephone number and why was it given out?






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