In the busy-ness before Christmas a letter writer to The Lake Report on the issue of a proposed residential development was headlined “No consequences for developer not responding to town.”
The writer noted “despite the fact the developer was able to run out the clock by not responding to the town’s comments by deadline,” a planning expert said he wouldn’t call that “a flaw in the system” (???)
The developer is, of course, going immediately to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
Councillors said there was no response from the developer on a number of critical concerns so no decision could be made, and critical issues were discussed behind closed doors by council because the project is subject to “legal proceedings.”
Here’s a suggestion or two on handling these kinds of manoeuvres:
1. Any developer that files an application with the Ontario Land Tribunal before completing the processes necessary for municipal planning requirements is immediately determined by the town to be bargaining in bad faith. Negotiations are halted until the developer rescinds that application, resubmits a revised one and receives approval for the project from council.
2. Council sets a deadline for developers to respond to the town’s requirements, one to two months before any appeal to the land tribunal is legally possible.
3. Applications by any developer that miss deadlines set by council are denied at the end of deadline day. That decision is final and binding unless council agrees to let the developer continue with a revised application, subject to council conditions.
4. The land tribunal is informed the application has been denied or rejected by council with the results of any referendum, questionnaire or survey of residents included in the notification to the tribunal.
5. No discussions regarding such applications are handled “behind closed doors.” Litigation against Niagara-on-the-Lake is everyone’s business and everyone’s cost. “He or she who pays the piper” etc.
There are trojan horse manoeuvres, end-run tactics, divide-and-conquer games and a favourite of many developers – stalling tactics.
Council needs to strategize effective opposition to any and all of these — and implement those tactics. These ideas are a start.