Three lawyers meet to discuss Air Park differences; agree to disagree and meet again in a couple of weeks. Landfill continues.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  July 4, 2013— For a document that was to have been available the day after city Council met on Tuesday but didn’t see the light of day until late Thursday afternoon – the statement  put out really don’t reveal much.

All we know is that the three lawyers met and agreed to disagree.  What took place was that three legal warriors got a chance to look each other over and get a sense as to where each was coming from and then return to their offices to figure out what to do next.

In an agreed upon statement – here is what we have been told:

“Mr. Blue and Mr. Grenier clearly stated their respective legal positions on the applicability of the city’s site alteration bylaw to the airport but agreed to reserve that legal issue until they and representatives of the city and the airport can meet to discuss a possible agreement to address the concerns raised by the city about best management practices for fill at the airport. If an agreement cannot be reached within a reasonable time, the legal issue will be revisited.”

Air Park owner Vince Rossi released a document at the Tuesday city council meeting in which he set out what he was prepared to do and what he needed in return.  Basically he said I will do some things you want me to do but you have to agree not to sue me.

What is troubling about the Rossi memorandum is that it came out of a meeting between Rossi, and his associate Tim Crawford and Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster.

Why is Lancaster hammering out an agreement with a business person the city is having serious problems with?  Lancaster is seen by many in north Burlington as already seriously compromised.  They see their ward council member as being in the pocket of the owner of the Air Park.

Vince Rossi and Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster sit beside each other at community meeting which many found offensive given that Rossi is the person damaging local property. Lancaster explained later that she needed to sit in a chair with a good back because she had been in a very minor auto collision and that Mr. Rossi chose to sit beside her once she was seated.   The view through the large barn doors is to the property onto which Rossi wants to extend his airport  runway.

Lancaster clearly has a close relationship with Vince Rossi and both meets and speaks with him far more often that she speaks with the north Burlington residents.  She did tour three properties  on Tuesday and then sat through a CLOSED session of Council at which lawyer Ian Blue set out what the issues were as he saw them.  Given the nature of the relationship with Rossi, should Lancaster have taken part in a closed session where strategy is being determined?

In the past Lancaster has stepped away from the Council table when issues related to the downtown core were being discussed; she is the owner of a business in the downtown core.

Former Beauty Queen still knows how to pose for the camera. Ward 6 Councillor at an Air Park picnic last summer which she turned into a constituency meeting.

Lancaster has held community events at the Air Park which we have attended.  We were of the impression that Lancaster was holding her constituency event at the Air Park, which we thought was a neat idea – great place for a photo –op and we took a number of pictures.  The fact was Lancaster was tagging along at an annual open house the Air Park holds each year.  That was never made clear to media people.

King Paving’s John Hutter in the foreground along with Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster and two city hall staff look at the landfill next to the fence line on the Cousin’s farm property. Hutter said that the drainage culvert that dumps onto the Cousin’s property runs across the full width of the airline property at this point. Had the city had site plan approval this would never have been permitted – and where a drainage culvert runs has nothing to do with the operate of an airport. The culvert  is 20 feet + beneath the surface.

Do we have a situation where Lancaster is closer to the person the city is close to taking legal action against than she is to the residents she was elected to represent?

Lancaster pointed out in an interview that she got less than 100 votes from north Burlington in the 2010 election.  She will be lucky to get one vote from that community next time out.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster trudging through tall grass on the way to look at the landfill dumped on the Cousins Appleby Line far, Many thought Lancaster should have made the trip months ago to see the damage done.

Lancaster did not visit the properties that have sustained the damage until July 2nd and maintains that she did not hear a word from any resident until March 5th of this year.  Several residents were aghast when they heard this and are in the process of scowering their records to put forward evidence that refutes the statement made.

Barbara Sheldon didn’t think the statement the city put out was “as strong and aggressive an approach as I had hoped it would be.”  “Every day” she added Rossi continues to bring in truckload after truckload – today there had to be a couple of hundred trucks.  Now he’s got carte blanche for at least another two weeks.  Sheldon believes the meeting on July 17 or 18th “will be stalled by Rossi’s people until early August, if not later.”

Burlington city hall tends to shut down for much of August.

The city has hired Toronto lawyer Ian Blue to work with the city’s legal team. Blue met July 3 with Glenn Grenier and Brent McPherson, the lawyers representing the airport, and will meet again with airport representatives on July 17 or 18.

Blue is Ian Blue, the lawyer Burlington has hired and Grenier, is Glenn Grenier, a Burlington resident and a pilot and the lawyer the Air Park has hired.  Vince Rossi has beefed up his legal team with an additional lawyer from the same firm: Macmillan.  It will take two lawyers to one-up Ian Blue.

City council has seen Grenier before when he over-reached to impress Council with all he knew about things aeronautic and basically saying the city didn’t have a hope in hades of winning so give up now.

City manager Jeff Fielding wasn’t buying that and on three separate occasions during the Council meeting advised the Mayor to dismiss Grenier and send him on his way.

What has Burlington totally ticked is the way the Air Park people have handed the situation.  At that meeting Councillor Craven asked Grenier: “Why is your client such a lousy neighbour”.

The city’s legal strategy will have been determined – we will see very little of that strategy – these guys are great poker players.  “Burlington” said the city media release ” is moving forward with a legal strategy to address concerns regarding noise and fill activities related to construction at the Burlington Executive Airport on Bell School Line.”

Blue will look for ways to chip away at the “federal jurisdiction” the Air Park has been relying upon the thumb their noses at the city, and make no mistake about this, the very senior level of city hall is furious with the way they are being treated.

To see a piece of construction equipment this close to your kitchen window was seen as a deliberate and provocative attempt to intimidate property owner Barbara Sheldon.

The Mayor is taking a softer political line with statements suggesting that can all be worked out through dialogue and compromise but people like Barbra Sheldon don’t see much compromise when there is a massive piece of machinery parked less than 50 yards from her kitchen window on a hill of landfill that she doesn’t think should be there in the first place.

Most in the community see the parking of that equipment as a deliberate and provocative intimidating act on the part of Vince Rossi.

Mayor Goldring called the damage done appalling when he first saw it.

The city arranged for a meeting of the Rural Burlington Green Coalition as a first step – which may be the only step between the community and the air park owner.  Vanessa Warren believes a community wide meeting needs to take place to explain to a wider public the seriousness of this problem.  Should there even be an airport in north Burlington and if the answer is yes – then how big should that airport be?

Many believe this is a decision the city and Region should be making and not an individual entrepreneur who has found a loophole in the law that allows him to bypass any city involvement.

The city has hired Toronto lawyer Ian Blue to work with the city’s legal team. Blue met July 3 with Glenn Grenier and Brent McPherson, the lawyers representing the airport, and will meet again with airport representatives on July 17 or 18.

The work being done now came out of a direction from city council June 10th, to develop a legal strategy.  It was among the seven recommendations approved by City Council, which include:

The city’s legal staff will develop a legal strategy to address the concerns expressed by City Council and citizens regarding issues with the Burlington Executive Airport and report back to City Council on July 2, 2013

The city’s director of engineering will, by September, review and update the city’s site alteration bylaw 6-2003 to reflect best practices

Mayor Rick Goldring and City Manager Jeff Fielding will jointly contact the federal Minister of the Environment to request soil testing of the Burlington Executive Airport property

Mayor Goldring will work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to lobby the federal Minister of Transportation and other relevant ministries to develop a process to allow municipalities to have input on airpark land filling operations and expansion plans

The city’s director of finance will arrange a meeting with MPAC representatives and the affected property owners beside the airport property regarding current property value assessment 

The general manager of development and infrastructure will request the owner of the Burlington Executive Airport to provide the city with a complete site and grading plan that minimizes impacts on neighbouring properties and will request that the owner modify existing grades to minimize impact on neighbouring properties

The director of planning and building will have staff enforce the city’s dust suppression bylaw 50-2008 that requires consideration be given to neighbouring properties when construction processes generate dust. Staff will also enforce the provisions of the nuisance and noise control bylaw including after-hours enforcement and issuing offence notices as necessary.

The city is grinding away with the limited regulatory tools it has while legal counsel looks for chinks in the Air Park armour.

The Air Park continues to dump landfill on the site.

The residents fume.

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