After months of work by the volunteer committee overseeing the OMB appeals, the group has had to withdraw from the appeal process. The appeal stems from the contentious decisions by Midland’s Council to re-zone one-third of Edgehill Park / Huronia Park to allow for commercial development of a Health Hub by Chigamik and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health,
The controversy first started last spring when Council decided to approve, in principal, the request by Waypoint and Chigamik, to secure the donation of town-owned land on which to build their Health Hub; where they planned to combine services offered in their separate locations in Midland into one central location.
After public meetings, deputations, a petition with 1800+ names followed by a divided but successful (6 for, 3 against) vote in Council, the group (which went on to become OurMidland.ca) filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The rationale used by several councillors, including Councillor Strathearn, was simply that Midland has a “surplus of parkland”. To add insult to injury, Councillor Strathearn pitched Council on buying land to build a new park in his ward the following week.
Fundraising began to offset the anticipated and unavoidable costs of mounting an appeal, which can be very expensive. The Town engaged local law firm HGR Graham to defend their position while the proponents of the Health Hub (Waypoint & Chigamik) engaged their lawyers.
Hundreds more letters objecting to the re-zoning of the waterfront facing parkland, in addition to the petition were submitted to Simcoe County Council who, despite the petitions and letters, approved the Town of Midland’s application to amend their Official Plan to include the new zoning.
Throughout this process, the group sought and retained legal counsel, planning consultants and planning advice to help build the legal case needed at the OMB. The OMB, a quasi-judicial entity, does not take into consideration the “will of the community” or any moral issues surrounding conflicts of interest – and only rules on the legality of the process and Planning Act issues.
The costs of mounting the appeal were growing as the pressure to pick a date for the appeal grew closer. The community helped out with approximately $2,200 in donations in cash, and online. Sadly, the cost estimations to secure the expert witnesses and to finance the multi-day appeal climbed to between $25,000 and $50,000. There just isn’t enough money in the bank to proceed – a fact that we’ve learned many Municipalities count on.
Accordingly, and after much deliberation, the committee reluctantly decided that it was not possible to raise the kind of money required to continue this process, and had no intention of simply allowing the appeal date to be set simply to “cause delay” to the Health Hub project or jeopardize its funding (which unnecessary delay could have done).
The group has always maintained its support for both Waypoint and Chigamik but its opposition to what it and many supporters see as nothing more than an opportunistic land grab to meet the needs of their funding’s expiry date.
Notwithstanding that position, we wish the Heath Hub success and remain saddened that it will be built on the parkland. Furthermore, we will be sure to remind Council that they promised that there was no intention to allow the Health Hub to “expand” onto more land as time goes on – a concern based on the Powerpoint slide presented to Council indicating their preference for Edgehill Park because of its “room for growth” and the fact that the current footprint does not adequately allow for enough parking for their staff and visitors (self-admitted).
Perhaps the saddest take-away for the community, is that despite the largest uprising in our local history, against a Town initiative, and the most signatures by local residents ever collected and presented to our council, that our elected officials charged forward with the initiative, not to be dissuaded by community outrage.
What does that say to to other concerned community members who oppose Town planning or decisions and show up with a dozen signatures and a deputation? It says that even with 1/3 of the voters in Town on board, that Council will do what they intended to do all along. After all, it only took less than a dozen concerned citizens to stop Council of the day from building the fire hall on that very same land…
We have had disillusioned community members ask us:
- what good is a petition no matter how many names are on it?
- what good does writing letters to council do?
- what good comes of deputations to council when they will simply disregard the input, let it go through one ear and out the other, and do what they intended to do in the first place.
It seems that an agreement in principle is another way of saying it will be done.
We cannot offer much hope to those people other than to tell them to remember what has happened here, what has yet to happen and do what we all do on election day every four years.. vote those who failed you out of power and those who have shown leadership and responsiveness to your needs back in.
A warm thank you to all the community members who helped fight for the park and supported the campaign. We are truly sorry that we cannot take this fight any further.