Rate Payers file complaint with Ontario Ombudsman


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We recently asked Ontario’s Ombudsman to investigate a systemic flaw in the planning process that robs citizens of their voice in the planning process. On March 21st, we learned the Town of Middlesex Centre had been conducting secret negotiations with Tridon, the developer of the Don Black Lands in Komoka. There is nothing illegal about those meetings, although they were disrespectful to residents who’d asked to be included in the process.

Out of those meetings, a backroom deal was struck between the Town and the developer – in the form of revised Draft Plan Conditions for the proposed development. This deal will be presented to the Ontario Municipal Board at a hearing in June. Because, KKRPA had sought and been granted standing as a party in that hearing, we have an opportunity to object to the content of the backroom deal. However, if we had not already been granted standing we would NOT have been given an opportunity to object to any changes made in this backroom deal. Even now, if you or any other affected citizen of Komoka has concerns about these new backroom changes, you do not have the right to appeal it on your own. This is because this deal was reached in the middle of an OMB hearing process.

That’s just wrong.

We have a Town Council that has refused to represent our concerns as residents, taxpayers and citizens of Kilworth and Komoka who will be directly affected by this development. We met with the mayor and members of Town staff in January and asked them to represent our interests at the board. They never even responded. No wonder 89% of residents feel Council is not acting in our best interests.

We have a process that, inadvertently or by design, has disenfranchised the community through secret backroom dealings. Only by good fortune and foresight, has KKRPA been provided an opportunity to be heard at the OMB on this deal.

We have a system that now compels any resident or citizen who may ever be concerned about a future development, to seek standing at every future OMB appeal, just in case and at great personal expense – because our Town cannot be trusted to represent our interests.

You can help

We need your financial help to continue our work at the OMB on this development. Click here to make a donation to help us make sure your voice is heard.

You can also ask Ontario’s Ombudsman to investigate what’s going on in Middlesex Centre:

 


Our submission to the Ontario Ombudsman

At an OMB pre-hearing on March 21, information was disclosed by lawyers for the Town of Middlesex Centre, the County of Middlesex and a private developer (Tridon) that have sparked concern there is a systemic flaw in the Ontario planning process that robs citizens of their right to participate in local planning.

Background

  • May 2015 – A public meeting is held to consider an application for Draft Plan from Tridon Group Ltd. to redevelop land owned by Don Black Investments Ltd. in Komoka, Ontario.
  • April 2016 – Faced with considerable public pressure against the development, Middlesex Town Council indefinitely defers consideration of the Tridon application. Shortly thereafter, Tridon appeals Council’s lack of decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • October 2016 – At an OMB pre-hearing on the Tridon appeal, the Kilworth Komoka Rate Payers Association and a developer adjacent to the Tridon property are granted standing in the matter. Lawyers for Tridon propose a second pre-hearing be scheduled for March 21, 2017 and submit they will sit down with all the affected parties with hope they can negotiate a resolution prior to March 2017 in which case the March pre-hearing would become a settlement hearing.
  • Between October and March 21, 2017 – Tridon makes no attempts to contact, or respond to inquiries from, either KKRPA or the other developer with standing in the matter.
  • March 21, 2017 – At the 2nd OMB Pre-Hearing on the Tridon appeal, lawyers for Tridon confess they have not spoken with either KKRPA or the other developer of standing. Tridon does, however, inform the OMB they have been in secret discussions with the Town and County to develop a revised set of Draft Plan Conditions. Neither of the other parties of standing have been informed of these discussions.

The Issue

These “Revised” Draft Plan Conditions have not yet been shared with the other parties or the public. It is possible they may mitigate some or all of the community’s concerns. However, it is also possible they may include wholesale revisions to the original Draft Plan Conditions considered by Town Council previously that give rise to new and original concerns.  This raises an unusual and unacceptable paradox.

Although planning is a public matter, intended to be done in a transparent and accountable manner… these revised Draft Plan Conditions (whatever they may be) have been developed in secret as part of a possible negotiated settlement in an OMB hearing. This means no member of the public who does not already have standing in the Tridon matter may appeal them to the OMB.

Normally, citizens will have a chance to view the Draft Plan Conditions when they are considered at Council. Citizens with concerns can appeal to the OMB for remedy. It is possible that a citizen, who was satisfied with the original Draft Plan Conditions and therefore did not seek standing in the matter, may be offended by the revised Draft Plan Conditions and wish to appeal them. However, the window to seek standing in the Tridon matter has closed. Therefore, citizens have potentially been robbed of their right of appeal.

This is not just a local or one-time problem affecting this particular development proposal. It does not appear to be illegal – but it is a systemic flaw in the OMB process.

The developer Tridon has shrewdly manoeuvred its appeal to take advantage of this loop hole and avoid public debate on its revised development. The Town of Middlesex and County of Middlesex are complicit in this legal manoeuvre, having allowed it to occur through incompetence, malice or collusion.

Request for Investigation

On behalf of the residents of Kilworth and Komoka, we ask that you investigate this situation to determine:

  1. Whether there was any collusion between the municipality and the developer to minimize the public’s right to appeal the Draft Plan Conditions.
  1. Whether the municipality is sufficiently competent to manage development issues on behalf of the public, or whether these matters would better be managed by a regional or other level of government.
  1. Whether this is a systemic problem that affects citizens and developments province-wide and, if so, recommend changes to the development process and OMB mandate to eliminate this loop hole.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Yours truly,

 

Darren Micallef

Kilworth Komoka Rate Payers Association

Text of Ombudsman Complaint (.docx)

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