PenEquity- My Council Speaking Notes

The following is the motion I moved at council with my speaking notes (added document links) with respect to the PenEquity debate. The motion lost.

Motion: to refer back to staff the PenEquity Planning and Environment Committee recommendation as it is premature given the outstanding policy concerns involving the Ministry of Natural Resources surrounding the designation of the wetland, the policies of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority policy prohibiting development in a wetland, the lack of an environmental impact study determining how the provincially significant woodland can be protected as a result of a proposed development on adjacent lands. It being further noted that the municipality will hire an ecologist to evaluate the wetland using the OWES and carry out the EIS.

Speaking Notes: Process
How we grow and develop in the city is outlined in our Official Plan (OP The Official Plan sets out the “rules” – objectives, policies and processes that guide the physical development of land. This document is critically important because our OP policies must be consistent with the provincial directives as outlined in the Provincial Policy Statements (PPS and other provincial legislation.

Not only is the OP our link between provincial and municipal policies, It is also our promise, contract, agreement with the community. The introduction advises the reader that the Official Plan will “Govern and serve as a guide to the decisions of Council” and further it states the OP “Informs the public of Councils intentions”. This clarity is important so that everyone plays by the same rules.

If a parcel of land has an unevaluated vegetation patch noted on OP Schedule B1, you will be asked to complete a Subject Land Status Report (OP 15.5.2). The SLSR requires assessment of the site to determine the status of the natural heritage features (staff has tried to evaluate this vegetation patch 10102, but the owner would not allow anyone on the land to carry out the necessary studies).

The conclusions of the SLSR determined a “Significant Woodland” and a unevaluated wetland, embedded within the woodland, as natural heritage features on the land (the woodland scored high in 5 of 8 criteria, well beyond the threshold for significance: 1 of 8. Guidelines for assessing Woodland Significance:

With respect to “Significant Woodlands” and “Significant Wetlands”, the Provincial Policy Statements are clear: development and site alteration shall NOT be permitted in significant woodlands and significant wetlands unless it can be demonstrated that there will be NO NEGATIVE IMPACTS on the natural features or their ecological functions. It goes on to say development and site alteration shall not be permitted on ADJACENT LANDS to the natural heritage feature and area unless the ecological function of the adjacent lands has been evaluated and it has been demonstrated that there will be NO NEGATIVE IMPACTS on the natural features or on their ecological functions (emphasis mine).

Given our Official Plan must reflect provincial policies our OP says 15.5.2. B) If the Subject Lands Status Report identifies any lands that, in the estimation of the City, may meet the criteria for determining significance, the City shall require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for these lands.

15.5.1. ii) Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) are required where development or site alteration is proposed within or adjacent to components of the Natural Heritage System. The City will require that an Environmental Impact Study be completed to its satisfaction, in consultation with the relevant public agencies prior to the approval of an Official Plan amendment, Zoning By-Law amendment, subdivision application, consent application or site plan application.

An EIS requires the woodland/wetland to be evaluated over three seasons. This is to ensure the evaluation captures a comprehensive assessment of the features, functions, flora and fauna which often change with the season.

Aerial photography of this site from 1951 through to today depict the woods and small pond, prior to the 401 being built and prior to aggregate extraction on either side of the site. Surprisingly the massive extraction did not impact the woodland over decades. Contrary to misinformation, aerial photography shows the woodland/wetland was not formed as a result of the building of the 401 and it was not a former gravel pit as evidenced by the historical air photos. Some have made the erroneous assumption that the small lake where gravel was extracted is the wetland. The wetland is located within the woodland.

In closing, the Official Plan serves to guide the decisions of council and inform the public of our intention. It represents a contract, a commitment to be consistent with Provincial directives and public interest. This is about integrity in the planning process; it is about playing by the rules and following due process. If you are not going to stand for the Official Plan policies that represent our contract to the community then what are you standing for?

City Hall – August 26-30 2013

Aug. 26, 1:00 pm. Investment & Economic Prosperity Cte. Full agenda:
#5 & #7 – Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation.

Aug. 26, 3:30 pm. Corporate Services Cte. Full agenda:
#2 – Debenture issue update

Aug. 26, 4:00 pm. Strategic Priorities & Policy Cte. Full agenda:
#2 – Information update from the Council Compensation Review Task Force.
#4 – ReThink Discussion Paper – “What we Heard”. Great information in the report noted as appendix.

Council meeting are open to public. Viewing gallery is on 3rd floor.

Aug. 27, 4:00 pm. Council. Full agenda:
VII #1 Communications & Petitions – interesting letter from Wood Bull lawyers regarding PenEquity. (last pdf of supporting material on rt. side of page)
Planning & Environment Cte Report
#4 – PenEquity deliberation to be a timed item – 6pm.
Community & Protective Services Report
#8 – Surveillance cameras will generate some discussion

Response to London Chamber CEO Gerry Macartney’s Blog

I must admit my first response when I read Mr. Macartney’s blog was “Who wrote this”? The style, political commentary, factual errors, had me shaking my head. Nevertheless, it was posted and warrants a response.

  • The Sun Life Application. Council did not refuse Sun Life’s application. We unanimously approved to trade a city-owned property on airport road within the Urban Growth Boundary for the land optioned by Sun Life outside UGB. Following the market crash in October 2008 the Manager of Planning received an email from Sun Life which stated that, “under these much changed economic circumstances, it would not be prudent to continue with this project.” (staff report: agenda item #20).
  • Sysco to Woodstock. Sysco needed a level site. Our only suitable site required a few million dollars to complete this work. Had the city done so it would have been a violation of the Municipal Act which does not allow “bonusing” for private interests.
  • Investment along the 401. Council has agreed to new investments along the 401 corridor for future wealth and job creation for industrial but not for residential, institutional or commercial. We have a massive amount of vacant commercial space where services and infrastructure are already in place. You cannot equate a comprehensive Industrial Land Strategy with this application.
  • The Woodland. The actual number of trees is not 1600. A number slightly larger than that is for a specific size of tree (15 cm diameter) and does not represent all the trees in the woodland. With respect to possible ash and elm dieback, every woodland has species that die as a result of disease or infestation. As dynamic ecosystems the understory within a forest quickly replaces the dieback. Let’s not marginalize a woodland declared “significant” which is suppose to be protected under the Provincial Policy Statements.
  • The Wetland. To suggest there is no wetland as defined by the Ministry of Natural Resources is incorrect. MNR provided mapping and correspondence indicating it will not accept the wetland evaluation completed by the developer’s ecologist.
  • Transportation. Public Transit runs to Wellington and Roxbourgh only during rush hour (early morning and late afternoon). There is no evening and weekend service.
  • Jobs. As staff quite rightly advised Planning Committee, to trumpet job numbers is a “red herring”. To suggest this development will not “poach” existing retail denies the actual experience in London, the history of the downtown being the most glaring example.  If you have been in Westmount Mall, Pond Mills Centre, Crossing Centre the stagnation is obvious, not to mention the thousands of square feet of vacant commercial space with services at the doorstep.
  • Politics. What is extraordinarily disconcerting is the “political” push to incite councillors. I agree completely that this decision is one in which the public must remember how each councillor voted. If there is to be any trust in planning policies and ultimately planning decisions, we must ensure there is integrity in the process. To by-pass Official Plan policies, significant woodland guidelines, Environmental Impact Studies, and Provincial Policy Statements, sends a message that processes can be manipulated and sidestepped by those in positions of power.
  • London’s future. A retail centre does not define London. There are many exciting economic initiatives in London from Fraunhoefer Composite Research Facility, the new Fanshawe School for Performing Arts and Digital Media, Medical Innovation strategy, Western University’s game-changing cognitive neuroscience imaging research, Western’s Job Shadowing program, the making of the movie Luminality, tremendous opportunities for brownfield redevelopment …and much more.

City Hall – August 19-23 2013

Items to Watch
August 19, 4:00 pm. Civic Works Cte. Full agenda
Nothing controversial.

August 19, 7:00 pm. Community & Protective Services Cte: Full agenda:
#7 – Request from the Animal Welfare Advisor Cte. to ban the sale of cats & dogs in retail outlets.
#8 – Request by Stephen Orser to reconsider video surveillance cameras in Old East Village
#10 – Request by Councillor Denise Brown to allow patios to play music.

August 20, 1:00 pm. Corporate Services Cte. Full agenda:
#3 – Recommendation to approve two Requests for Proposals from corporations interested in re-development of the McCormick Property at 1156 Dundas St.

August 20, 4:00 pm. Planning & Environment Cte. Full agenda:
#4 – PenEquity Application (Dingman Dr. & Wellington Rd. S.) – As requested, staff are providing further information on the wetland, woodland and proposed development in addition there are a number of requests for delegation
#11 – Zoning change for 423 Grey St. to accommodate the relocation of the former Fugitive Slave Chapel
#18 – Proposed policy regarding secondary dwelling units within single and semi-detached dwellings