Council overreacts to IRAC decision on condo project
One can understand the frustration of Charlottetown City Council. It feels that an unelected body, such as the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, should not have the power to overrule council.
But the city should also understand that it doesn’t have the monopoly on right and wrong. That’s why we have appeal bodies so that individuals or businesses can make their case before an independent group.
For example: A rezoning or building application is received at city hall, planning board considers the proposal, a public meeting is held to hear the pros and cons and council meets to consider a recommendation. A vote is held and the application is accepted or rejected.
And that should be the end of it — or so council suggests.
But there is usually someone upset with the vote and they have the right to appeal to IRAC. So then we have a delay, more money is spent on appeals and lawyers, and eventually the commission renders a ruling.
Council argues IRAC is second-guessing the decision of a democratically elected body. And it wants it to stop.
The issue was resurrected during a meeting Monday, inflamed by IRAC’s recent decision to overturn a city council vote on a proposed condominium development along the Belvedere golf club.
Council voted unanimously to ask the provincial government, through the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, to amend the Planning Act so that IRAC can only uphold a council decision or return the matter back to council for further consideration. It seems that council considers itself virtually infallible.
The mayor does have a point when he says this application had been with IRAC for a year and a half before they made the decision. The commission must act in a timelier manner.
Council is taking things too far. Its power isn’t absolute.
For example, look at the House of Commons, the supreme law-making body in the country. Legislation can be appealed to the Supreme Court which occasionally throws out a bill, mostly for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee admits, councillors usually vote according to feedback from people in the city or their ward. Does that mean that the most vocal opinion is the right one?
Council should be basing decisions on its official plan, zoning, rules and regulations . . . and do the right thing. Being loud doesn’t mean it’s right. You make enough noise and expect council to respond with a favourable decision? That is why we have appeal bodies.
Council and Mayor Lee have to accept the fact they are not always right. There must be an appeal body so that individuals or businesses can seek justice elsewhere when necessary.
And really, why are the mayor and council getting so upset? In the vast majority of cases, council makes the right decision because very few permit decisions are appealed and only a miniscule number ever get to an IRAC hearing.
Over the past 10 years, there have been more than 6,500 permits issued by the city’s planning department.
In 20 cases, the permit was appealed to IRAC and only 10 of those actually got to a hearing. In five of those cases, IRAC overruled council’s decision. In the other five, the commission upheld council’s decision.
So, five times out of more than 6,500 permits, a decision was overturned by IRAC. And this is why council gets itself into an angry frenzy? It’s a tempest in a teapot. Get over it. Belvedere golf officials had argued before council that the condo development is critically important to the future of the course. Doesn’t that account for anything with council?
Does the city have no regrets at trying to kill the oldest golf course on P.E.I. which provides a green space jewel inside the municipality?
Councillors, keep on doing a good job. Most of the time, you get it right. But not always.