Connection Got It Wrong

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Block 9The story in this weekend’s Connection about Block 9 underground parking incorrectly suggests council is doing something right when it was actually trying to do something wrong. But they tried to take credit for doing good when their efforts at malice failed.

I expect mistakes like this from the Enterprise-Bulletin because it doesn’t have anyone on staff with a history that goes back very far (aside, that is, from the generally bad, mistake-prone writing that makes it painful to read…), but not the Connection.

The story notes:

After a short in-camera session, council voted unanimously to allow the developer to build underground parking on property on Huron Street.
Assaff owns block 11 of the former Shipyard lands at the corner of Heritage Drive and Huron Street, and under the master plan for that site, underground parking is allowed.

Let’s leave aside the dubious legality of going behind closed doors over parking for a moment (which the media didn’t question…) and discuss the parking issue.

The entitlement for underground parking access to Block 9 was actually provided to the original property owner, Fram, by the town in the original site plan, approved by the 2003-06 council. It was on title with Block 11 when the property was sold to the current owner. The council at that time recognized that Block 9 served no purpose to the town.

The underground parking provision is not dependent on the ownership of Block 11, and the town cannot legally remove that entitlement; an attempt to do so would prove a very expensive legal battle.

The approval to put parking under Block 9 was made to allow Fram to build residential units in Block 11 and thus have enough space to meet the town’s parking requirements. Only that way was Block 11 viable for development (the other Shipyards residential properties have underground parking but onsite.)

Keep in mind that Block 9, the property under which the parking would be built, is a weed-infested eyesore that breeds mosquitoes. It has no value to the town and there have been no plans to use or develop it for public use in the town’s 150-year history. There is no valid argument for keeping it in public hands – council will do so only from petty maliciousness.

But underground parking is a very expensive option and unlikely to be viable for a new commercial development.

This council did NOT grant Assaff anything he didn’t already have. I suspect someone on council must have brought it up in an effort to deny Assaff his legal right as the new owner of Block 11. That would hardly be surprising given the ideological dogma of some at the table. Otherwise why would parking be discussed in camera?

Some council members are determined to prevent Assaff from developing that corner – or in fact anywhere in town – in part because it is a quintessentially anti-business, anti-growth council, but also because their political mentor has a well-known personal hatred of Assaff.

So what about this in camera meeting? Why is parking being discussed in secret? It isn’t about personnel, it isn’t about the purchase or sale of municipal property. It isn’t even a legal issue because it’s already on title.

One can only suspect council went behind closed doors not to pursue valid municipal business that requires confidentiality as per the Municipal Act, but to pursue a malicious personal agenda. Otherwise this discussion could have taken place in public.

Where is the openness and transparency we were promised?

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