On the April 15 agenda is a proposal by the Planning Advisory Committee to change some property on Claude Street from residential to commercial zoning, so that a large commercial operation can be built there. (Agenda item 8.6 PAC02-2014 Zoning By-law Amendment and Official Plan Amendment, Pt Lot 23 Div S Claude W/S and S Pt Lot 23 Div S Claude W/S (Wiarton), 2373389 Ontario Limited).
Council should reject the proposal.
Our system is founded on the rule of law. Laws and by-laws are made for the protection of citizens. Citizens should be able to have confidence that the laws and by-laws that protect them will not suddenly and arbitrarily and without a clear public interest reason be changed to their disadvantage. That assurance is part of our system. That assurance is paramount.
The zoning by-law is no exception. One purpose of the zoning by-law is to give residents some certainty that when they live in or move into an area zoned “residential” they will not suddenly find that the property next door has been, without valid public policy justification, rezoned from residential to commercial, and that construction has started on a large busy grocery store, or worse.
If a property is zoned residential then the residents who want it to stay residential have a right to have it stay residential, and to say “no” to the zoning change application. And the residents should not be forced to feel that they have to justify their refusal. They have a right to say “no” to the change without having to argue their case. And residents have clearly said no to the Claude Street rezoning proposal.
Yet the Planning Advisory Committee has virtually ignored the residents. The Planning Advisory Committee not only ignored the residents saying “no”, but also put them on the defensive, first challenging them to give their reasons, then when they did provide reasons patronizingly saying to the concerned residents “don’t worry – we’ll address all your concerns after the zoning by-law has been changed”, and “don’t worry – we’ll make sure the developer turns their heating and ventilating fans away from you. We believe that you will still be able to get to sleep at night. We believe your worries are unfounded.”
Members of the Planning Advisory Committee even condescendingly dismissed the residents’ very valid concerns.
Then the Planning Advisory Committee implied that the developer has rights, maybe even more rights, than the residents.
If the residents or even some residents don’t want the zoning change, then there shouldn’t be one. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The residents should not be told that the developer has rights too so the residents need to compromise and adjust.. The residents should not be asked to or expected to compromise, especially when that compromise would result in loss of enjoyment of their property and their community.
Now council faces a decision. Council should do the right thing for the residents and refuse the zoning change application.
Or will they side with the Planning Advisory Committee and throw the residents under the bus?
I hope that affected residents will attend the April 15 meeting as a show of protest. But they should be aware of the new rules prohibiting criticism. (See commentaries 4-9 and
4-11 on craiggamieblog.com)