EDIT: 28-OCT-2015 4:00PM
Despite all the facts below, one brave resident decided, after much soul searching, to step forward and be the appellant in an OMB appeal of the two bylaws passed 20 days ago by 6 of the 9 councillors. The appeal document and fees were filed at 4:20PM just 10 minutes before the deadline. Accordingly, OurMidland.ca will stand behind this brave community member and continue our parallel our efforts with the County to stop the acceptance of the Official Plan variations that are part of this land deal.
Our original and initial approach to appeal the passing of the two unpopular bylaws that sever part of Edgehill Park: The Grove from the rest of the waterfront parkland and see it “donated” for a new combined services Health Hub has met with a few set-backs, however, as of this edit, has resulted in the filing of the documents and fees. The serious conditions to contemplate are:
The first, being the fact that Midland Council passed this controversial rezoning in the first place despite over 2200 signatures demanding that they keep stewardship of our heritage parkland and forgo land-grab commercialization requests.
After debate, deputations, submissions and warnings from Steve Gilchrist, Ontario’s former minister of municipal affairs and housing who helped draft the legislation the town is using to bestow this parkland upon the Health Hub’s proponents, Council passed the bylaws required to turn the parkland into open space then immediately into employment area; planning lingo for ‘not a park‘.
OurMidland.ca organized, began fundraising and fact-finding for the 20-day window to file an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board. The key to the appeal is having valid planning act arguments to give them jurisdiction to hear the case. After consultation with experienced Bay Street (Toronto) planning law firms, we have come to two conclusions; both of which have resulted in finding alternative ways to have these bylaws reversed and get our parkland out of the pockets of these worthy yet opportunistic pair of local health care providers.
Our first conclusion is that even a relatively simple two-day appeal can cost upwards of $40,000 and can run as high as $80,000. Those are far too many zeros to raise in 20 days, even with the kind and generous support of our community sponsors; who have helped us raise close to $2,000 at last weekend’s fundraiser and online.
Our second conclusion is that we lack the time to gather enough grounds for the appeal. Our consultations show that we may have a case in a few legal areas, but there is not enough time to do the research and FOI (freedom of information) the evidence needed to get the ball rolling.
Ethical or “right thing to do” arguments are pointless with the OMB and so is “they won’t listen to the electorate”. Submissions intended primarily to simply induce a delay in the process are also disallowed. A case must have legal legs to stand on… which makes sense.
Equally troubling is that if we got into the process and our case gave out, the Town could move to have the appeal dismissed and ask for “costs” which mean we pay our lawyer and planner and then have to pay the Town’s lawyer(s) and planner(s) costs thus far. It is just irresponsible for us to expose that financial risk on our supporters or the appellant named on the appeal.
Council and town planners have declared that Midland has a surplus of parkland and used that as primary justification to convert Edgehill:The Grove, yet they did not declare that land surplus (normal planning steps). No valuation of that parcel of land was done or disclosed to the community (or Council). Oddly, they feel no reason to find out exactly what that land is worth now, nor did they project its future worth if we kept it until the Midland Bay Landing development is complete (has not even started yet). That land sits adjacent to the project that is supposed to be the jewel of Georgian Bay and a premiere tourist destination for Midland.
Instead of even exploring other options with that land, a made-to-order plan was crafted, primarily by past Mayor and current Councillor, and long-standing CHC/Chigamik board member, George MacDonald. No conflict of interest was ever declared when he was still on the board and working on this project. The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is clear at defining a “controlling interest” or being a member of a “body” as being a conflict – yet Council chooses to only look at direct financial links (fiduciary) as sole grounds for conflict. That is incorrect. [read the act]
To add insult to injury, just a week after pushing the bylaws through, one of the core supporters of the Edgehill conversion, Councillor Strathearn from Ward 3 (Sunnyside), is championing the procurement of land (they want to BUY new land to convert to parkland) to create a NEW park for Sunnyside residents in his ward, despite them having access to SIX beautiful parks in their ward.
Existing Town of Midland owned parks in WARD 3 include:
- Pete Peterson Park (public boat launch, beach/swim area, washroom facilities, lighted ball diamond, playground equipment, Trans Canada Trail System, horticultural displays.),
- McCullough Park (Nature trails, scenic lookout area, picnic area),
- Gawley Park (beach area, playground equipment, portable toilet on site, nature trails, natural wood lot, scenic lookout, horticultural displays),
- Glenbrook Gardens Park (nature trails and a natural wood lot leading to the waterfront beach),
- Sunrise Park (undeveloped waterfront park) and
- Bayview Park (playground equipment & basketball court).
In the cruelest of ironies, Ward 3 has some of the best waterfront/well equipped parks in town.
Additionally, the town is conducting a “feasibility study” for the proposed Sunnyside parkland acquisition and failed to do so with Edgehill, preferring to take the path of least resistance and rush through the process so the proponents (Waypoint / Chigamik) would not risk losing their funding for a project they failed to have a PLAN B for. The only time you don’t make a plan B is when you KNOW that plan A is a sure thing (although we’d argue that is still bad planning)
These contradictions make excellent cases for the OMB along with some other evidence we have collected, however we lack the substantive funds to mount an effective appeal, a fact that many communities have had to deal with and seems to be what municipal planners count on.
So.. what now?
Well, if you have been following our publications you’d know that we have begun the process to lobby the County of Simcoe to have them re-evaluate the Town’s Official Plan #8 submission which, if denied by the County planning department, could negate this deal and get everyone back to finding a new suitable location for the Health Hub that does not involve grabbing parkland or any portion thereof.
We need your help. This next step does not cost money, beyond postage. We need you to write the County of Simcoe and express your feelings about this process, the parkland and what you’ve learned about how it all went down.
Please visit this page to get sample letters and to learn more about the background. If you missed the local media coverage, you can catch up by following this link.
Don’t lose hope and don’t be discouraged. This has always been a David vs Goliath battle and we have three of nine councillors that see this as a bad deal for Midland. We don’t care whether the County has to tell the rest of them that it’s a bad planning decision or if they come to terms with this fact on their own; Council may yet do the right thing.
Lastly, plan to join us on November 16th at 7:00PM at the sports and rec centre for a town hall style meeting to review the Official Plan (which includes the parkland rezoning). You will have a chance, once again, to speak and have input. This is part of the process and we need to see a good turnout.
Your parks need you and your community needs you.