“We couldn’t have two members of the public speak after the public hearing but the applicant could contact the members of the council and basically engage in horse trading in order to try to win support.”
In an unusually candid remark, Councillor Pam Bookham accused Mayor Darrell Mussatto and Councillor Craig Keating of horse trading as she questioned how a developer could share new information with them after a public hearing had been closed.
“We couldn’t have two members of the public speak after the public hearing but the applicant could contact the members of the council and basically engage in horse trading in order to try to win support,” she said.
Bookham is usually measured in her words but she was irked by the way in which a previously rejected development was being pushed back to the council table for reconsideration. In April, council voted to reject a proposal for three infill buildings on Keith Street that would have added as many as 40 rental units to the city’s housing inventory. It was rejected, however, by a 4-3 vote because its setbacks would have infringed on Victoria Park, green space coveted by local residents.
But it was back on the council table again after the developer contacted Mussatto and Keating with an offer they thought would serve the city’s rental market quite well. The developer is now offering 20 per cent of the units for 10 per cent below market rents in perpetuity, an offer that could provide much needed rentals in the city, said Keating.
“This is the standard that people want to get to. I have heard that 20 per cent is important and it’s more progressive than the 10-10-10 rule,” he said.
Bookham, however, was upset with the way in which the developer tried to get his application before the council. “I have an issue with the public hearing closed and the applicant then lobbying individual councillors in an attempt to change things. There are many values that need to be upheld and protected,” she said. The city clerk said while no further information can be received after the closing of the public hearing, the Mayor has the right to bring a bylaw back for consideration.
“I am not privy to any of the discussions that took place but the Mayor has the right to bring the bylaw back for consideration and this isn’t changing the application as I understand it and it’s under the mayor’s right to bring it back,” she said.
Coun. Rod Clark called the attempt at reconsideration an abuse of process. “I find it an abuse of process that the developer would come to talk to you and Councillor Keating about what they will and will not do. On balance, it doesn’t changes thing, and I will not support the reintroduced motion,” he said.
By way of clarification, Mayor Mussatto said he had spoken to the developers prior to the public hearing. “This is just clarifying it, they felt they didn’t get the word out very well, it wasn’t very clear and so we are all clear about the level of opportunity here,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Linda Buchanan said the proposal checks off every box in the city’s housing action plan. “We are a leader in trying to create affordable housing. Building homes with massive setbacks isn’t current best practice. This is a solution and no is not an answer,” she said voting to support bringing the motion back for consideration.
Councillor Holly Back said she was surprised to learn about this because council has been told they are not allowed to get any information from the developer after public hearing. “The bottom line is that the people in this neighbourhood are extremely upset, and my job is listen to the people and I am not going to change my mind,” she opposing the reconsideration. The motion to revive the project failed with Back, Beckham, Bell and Clark opposed.