In a sad turn of events, and despite every effort to keep this fight about our parkland, it seems that the two beneficiaries of this land grab have decided to join the Town of Midland in their battle against 1800+ members of our community.
As you are all likely aware, a member of this group has launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) challenging Midland Council’s 6-3 vote to enact two bylaws that “pave the way” to allow Chigamik CHC and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health to partner and build a new health hub on the parkland. We have been vocal and ardent supporters of their mission and their mandates in the community and have gone out of our way to ensure that the focus of our displeasure is placed squarely at the feet of our Council, who have chosen to ignore the largest uprising of opposition in decades.
In case you have missed it, we oppose the choice to build on our parkland, simply so Chigamik CHC can meet their funding deadlines and at the exclusion of all other properties available in the Town of Midland.
You may be asking yourself, why would Waypoint and Chigamik feel the need to hire a premium law firm to fight local residents over a couple of zoning changes? This is very early in this process. There is no appeal date set. We don’t even know if there will be an appeal granted. There is still the official plan review. If the County chooses to pass Midland’s amended official plan #8 with changes that allow for this development, that too could be the subject of an OMB appeal.
Let’s also understand that in Waypoint CEO’s own words, their funding from the Province to build the new building has yet to be approved. There has been:
- no source water protection study (site touches a highly vulnerable aquifer),
- no peer-reviewed environmental study (that land was once heaps of coal) [click to see]
- no feasibility study (like they did for a new park proposed in Sunnyside)
- no accessibility plan (no sidewalks on their side of the road),
- and their proposed parking lot is inadequate for their existing needs, never mind the growth that they deny will take place…
The appellant (the person who signed the OMB appeal on behalf of our supporters) has now been served a notice by that prestigious and expensive law firm, that they want to be granted full party status at the hearing, and if not agreed upon now, that they will introduce a motion at the hearing to demand to be allowed to participate, in full. What does this mean? This means they want to be granted the right to represent the Town of Midland’s interests in this case.
The Town of Midland is the subject of the appeal. It is their decision to re-zone that is under appeal. Waypoint, Chigamik or anyone else who may want to build on the park is not part of this appeal.
Midland may not even have hired a lawyer yet. They may have even said something like… “hey, you guys (Waypoint/Chigamik) want this free land – and – we don’t want the bad press about legal fees against our own residents – so – hire a top gun and defend this appeal yourselves”.
Now, we have no evidence that such a conversation took place, but let’s look at this rationally.
1. The Town of Midland, despite enormous opposition, decides to charge ahead and rezone the park.
2. An appeal is launched – simply one person (with the support of more than 1800 others) against the Town of Midland’s decision.
3. The Town makes up a package to send to the OMB that defends their actions
4. The package is sent to the OMB and the appellant… but curiously also sent to Waypoint’s lawyers
5. The OMB replies to the Town and the appellant (but not to the lawyers since they have no standing in this case)
6. A letter from Waypoint’s lawyers is received by email, and effectively threatens the appellant with “costs” if they are not granted “party status”
7. “Party Status” gives them the same powers as the Town’s lawyers and allows them to incur “costs” that they could use as a tool to quickly kill any opposition for fear of being forced into bankruptcy – for daring to launch and proceed with this appeal.
This leaves us with a few serious questions:
- Why did the Town Of Midland share the OMB appeal package with Waypoint’s lawyers? At this stage, it has nothing to do with Waypoint. This is an appeal of re-zoning, an early stage in plan to allow for building (any building) on this land.
- If the disclosure to Waypoint’s lawyers was above-board, why did the OMB not CC their responses to the lawyers?
- Why did the appellant get a letter from Waypoint’s lawyers demanding to get fully involved in the OMB hearing when they are not named in it and would have no standing in this process without trying to argue to inject themselves into it?
- Is the Town planning on letting the “proponent” (those who stand to benefit from this land deal) fight the citizen on their behalf? And to actually demand that the citizen allow this to happen?
- Is the Town of Midland so unsure about their position on this matter that they have involved Waypoint’s deep pockets and extensive resources to be used against members of the community whom they both purport to serve?
We would argue that Waypoint and their legal team should stay far away from this OMB appeal and any subsequent appeals. If ever we see a David versus Goliath fight, it is now. In this version, Goliath brought his friend’s lawyer.
The Town of Midland can let Waypoint’s deep pockets defend their wildly unpopular decision and can deflect the backlash of having spent our tax dollars fighting against our own taxpayers; who’s only goal is to preserve a historical park from greedy and opportunistic development – by anyone.
The fact that Waypoint has chosen to bully their way into this and has turned all their legal firepower at this small group is telling. We still support their mission to serve the community but are left questioning their motives and tactics now that they may have just shown their “corporate colours” by bringing out the heavy artillery and taking aim at anyone they see as opposition.