IRAC ‘vi­tal’

Lawyer ar­gues IRAC not unique

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STE­WART

The Is­land Reg­u­la­tory and Ap­peals Com­mis­sion serves an im­por­tant role, says a Char­lot­te­town lawyer.

Jonathan Coady said there is noth­ing unique about IRAC; al­most ev­ery prov­ince has a board set up to re­view de­ci­sions made by mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils.

“There are tri­bunals through­out the coun­try per­form­ing the same func­tion and re­view­ing mu­nic­i­pal de­ci­sions,’’ Coady said on Tues­day.

Char­lot­te­town city coun­cil has passed a res­o­lu­tion ask­ing the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to amend leg­is­la­tion tak­ing IRAC’s power to over­turn their de­ci­sions away.

No one at IRAC wanted to re­spond to the story about coun­cil’s vote, so The Guardian in­ter­viewed a lawyer who has ap­peared be­fore the com­mis­sion on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, rep­re­sent­ing both sides.

“Th­ese tri­bunals pro­vide an im­por­tant safe­guard for all prop­erty own­ers. They en­sure that plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment de­ci­sions will be fair and mer­it­based. It is a le­git­i­mate func­tion in our le­gal sys­tem.’’

Over the past decade, of the 6,500 build­ing per­mits is­sued by Char­lot­te­town’s plan­ning depart­ment, 20 have been ap­pealed to IRAC. Half of those cases went to a hear­ing and five de­ci­sions were over­turned.

Mayor Clifford Lee ar­gues it doesn’t make sense for an un­elected reg­u­la­tory body to over­rule an elected coun­cil. He added that coun­cil­lors have to take into ac­count the views of the res­i­dents they rep­re­sent, as well as the de­vel­op­ers who are try­ing to get projects off the ground.

Coady said tri­bunals like IRAC give the pub­lic an ef­fi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to the court process, which tends to op­er­ate slower and not be as fa­mil­iar with mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning is­sues.

“Mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils are en­trusted with a wide range of du­ties. They wear many hats. But the le­gal con­straints on a coun­cil dif­fer, de­pend­ing upon the type of de­ci­sion be­ing made.’’

He said the abil­ity to make a plan­ning de­ci­sion, for ex­am­ple, is given to a coun­cil by the leg­is­la­ture un­der the Plan­ning Act. It is statu­tory, not a political, duty.

“For that rea­son, the law re­quires coun­cils to act in a quasi­ju­di­cial or court-like man­ner.’’

Coady said that plan­ning de­ci­sions af­fect the right of a land owner to de­velop prop­erty and given the im­por­tance of that in­ter­est, the law re­quires more from a mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil than sim­ply a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“It re­quires fair­ness, ac­count­abil­ity and a de­ci­sion grounded in plan­ning prin­ci­ples, as op­posed to political con­cerns.’’

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