The public will finally get a chance to see a recommendation report from town staff concerning a controversial development proposed for land on King Street next week.
Town politicians decided at a special council meeting Tuesday to make the report public at another special council meeting set for Jan. 24.
Coun. Gary Burroughs, who had expressed concern that the report on a proposal to build a three-storey, 17-unit condominium complex put forward by Josh Bice of Butler’s Gardens Development Inc. had not been made public.
The development is proposed for a parcel of land on the northwest side of King. The building will sit just under 12 metres in height and include 22 parking spaces.
Burroughs made his feelings known once again Tuesday at a council meeting to discuss the matter and, in answer to the veteran councillor’s concerns, chief planner Kirsten McCauley confirmed the town had received legal advice that recommended the report be discussed in camera.
“Because it is subject to litigation, the staff report would go in camera,” she said.
Burroughs, however, disagreed.
“I appreciate the legal advice but I don’t appreciate the fact that the report itself – it’s a public document and should be dealt with that way,” he said prior to council moving behind closed doors to discuss the issue.
The reason for discussing the report out of the view of the public was that because Bice had registered an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal, it had become a legal matter.
When contacted by The Lake Report on Wednesday, Burroughs reiterated the need for planning matters to be discussed in public, adding there are several other developments – notably ones proposed for the site of the former Parliament Oak school and another on property owned by developer Rainer Hummel on Queen Street.
In both proposals, permission is being sought to build a hotel. He is worried that by keeping discussion of the Bice development report behind closed doors, a precedent would be set.
“Would we – I would hope not – need to get legal advice on all of these? The way it’s working, it’s almost becoming a part of the process, going in camera for all planning discussions,” Burroughs said.
“We seem to be missing deadlines on all planning applications, especially the controversial ones.”
Also on Wednesday, Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said it was up to council to decide the fate of the report.
“Council made a decision, which is the right one,” he said.
But no matter what councillors decide to do, in reality, the decision on the fate of the Bice proposal is no longer in their hands.
“The matter will be decided at the (tribunal) hearing. That’s something we’re not used to here,” he said.
Burroughs, meanwhile, said he was happy – after a lengthy discussion behind closed doors – his colleagues had joined him in wanting to have the report made public.
“We spent over two hours talking about it and by the time we got to the vote there was consensus,” he said.
The development – on a site bounded by King Street, vineyards and single-family homes – has been criticized by nearby residents with one going as far to say it was “like trying to fit a size nine foot into a size six shoe.”