No legitimate chance for public on land switcheroo

This relates directly to one of the reasons why the Donnay development proposal has proven so problematic: lack of trust.

In light of what I consider to be an unreasonable public statement made by Councillor Siebring at the last council meeting, a statement which went unchallenged, I feel the need to set the record straight. This relates directly to one of the reasons why the Donnay development proposal has proven so problematic: lack of trust.

The proposal for an urban density development in a beloved rural block of land opened the eyes of many area residents to the shocking fact that this land had been reclassified as urban growth centre during the development of the 2011 OCP, a change made after the draft plan had been shown to and OKed by the public. Now many of the residents in the area who only now have learned that the land had been reclassified feel completely hoodwinked.

Adding insult to injury, at the council meeting Dec. 7, Councillor Siebring expressed in the strongest terms that the public had “had every opportunity to fully vet the entire OCP in its final draft before it was adopted” implying that if the public did not know about this change it was their own fault for not paying attention.

I would ask all of you to reflect on whether this is reasonable. Would you really expect a member of the public to sift through a 240 page document looking for any changes that may or may not have been made to the detailed plan you publicly presented to them just weeks before?

The fact is that having changed the land to urban growth centre after the public had vetted the plan, no steps were taken to alert citizens and land owners to that change.

1. The affected land owners were not notified that their land had been re-designated as urban growth centre.

2. Beyond the usual notifications pertaining to any public hearing, no steps were taken to alert the public to the change in the land’s designation prior to the public hearing.

3. The powerpoint presentation of the OCP made at the public hearing on 20 June, 2011, contains no reference to the change that had been made to the land designation.

Is there any doubt that only those very rare people who were paying the closest attention to the unfolding OCP could possibly have learned of this change and known of its significance?

Councillor Siebring, just how would you expect people to have had the knowledge to “fully vet the OCP” when a change was inserted after the public consultation without that change being explicitly pointed out? At the council meeting you made the case that the process of switching the land to urban growth centre had been “completely legit”. However, if you consider the matter from the perspective of the public, it may seem more like a bait-and-switch.

The community would never have supported the placement of the block of rural heritage land in the urban growth centre, a fact you will have heard from members of the community again and again over the last six months. The neighbourhood is now badly threatened from the perspective of the community and people feel tricked and mistrustful. And your only answer to that is, next time pay more attention?

I have a suggestion. Put your defensiveness behind you, recognize a poor decision was made for the area in the rush of getting the OCP finalized, and that the public was not consulted as it should have been on a significant change to their land and their neighbourhood. But mostly, do something to make it right. That might go a long way in restoring a bit of the public trust.

 

Christopher Justice

Maple Bay

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