Con­flict at city hall over vari­ance

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - LEN GIL­LIS

Tim­mins city coun­cil has de­cided it will not sup­port the city’s Com­mit­tee of Ad­just­ment (COA) in a pos­si­ble le­gal bat­tle over the com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to refuse what is known as a mi­nor vari­ance.

This fol­lows the rev­e­la­tion this week that the COA has de­cided not to let a South Por­cu­pine res­i­dent build a new fam­ily home be­cause the house was about 5% big­ger than the al­low­able lot cov­er­age.

The prospec­tive home­owner, Anna Feld­man, said in a let­ter to coun­cil she felt this was in­ap­pro­pri­ate since nu­mer­ous other prop­erty own­ers have been al­lowed to ahead with sim­i­lar vari­ances.

Mayor Steve Black said the let­ter was for­warded to coun­cil as the Feld­mans wished to ex­press their frus­tra­tion with the process and the fact that Anna Feld­man in­tends to con­test the de­ci­sion at the Lo­cal Plan­ning Ap­peal Tri­bunal (LPAT) for­merly known as the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board (OMB).

Tim­mins busi­ness­man Lorne Feld­man, who was in the gallery at the coun­cil meet­ing, was in­vited to com­ment on the let­ter.

He said it was penned by his wife who owns the prop­erty — lot 19 on Sony Street. Feld­man said he un­der­stood the COA is an arm’s length com­mit­tee that is free from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence from coun­cil.

“That be­ing said, I also feel that coun­cil should not nec­es­sar­ily be com­pelled from this com­mit­tee to in­cur un­nec­es­sary ex­penses or re­sources in a pro­ceed­ing in which it was not in­volved,” said Feld­man.

Coun. Pat Bam­ford said it was a com­pelling case be­cause the de­ci­sion was made by a com­mit­tee that had three mem­bers ab­sent. He said the de­ci­sion to turn down the vari­ance never would have hap­pened if all mem­bers had been present for the vote.

It was not stated who was ab­sent but ac­cord­ing to the by­law 20147608, the Tim­mins Com­mit­tee of Ad­just­ment in­cludes Norm Bolduc, John Cur­ley, Ge­orge Hughes, Randy Pick­er­ing, Dar­rel Poan, Jack Wat­son, Don Wy­att and Bob Yu.

bam­ford said most mem­bers of coun­cil got an email from one mem­ber of the com­mit­tee “say­ing that was a mis­take, that the de­ci­sion should not have been made.”

bam­ford said the email writer in­di­cated that if the full com­mit­tee had been present when the de­ci­sion was voted on, the change would have been per­mit­ted.

“in­stead a small group on the com­mit­tee de­cided against the mi­nor vari­ance,” said bam­ford.

as it turned out the vote was three to two against the change.

bam­ford said the de­ci­sion does not make sense be­cause when anna Feld­man ap­peals the de­ci­sion to the lpat, it will cost the city money to have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Com­mit­tee of ad­just­ment to de­fend the case. he said he didn’t think it would be a smart move for the city.

“this fam­ily wants to build a nice home, pay big taxes to the city and we’re say­ing no?” said bam­ford.

bam­ford said he liked the idea of not hav­ing any­one from the city de­fend from the COA po­si­tion. Feld­man said his be­lief is that if only one side presents a case to the lpat and that if the case is rea­son­able and the board agrees with it, “it would make the process sim­pler.”

the lpat hear­ing is sched­uled to take place on Sept. 25 at city hall.

Coun. Joe Camp­bell also ex­pressed dis­may at the de­ci­sion and won­dered if there was any­thing coun­cil could do to sim­ply over­turn the COA de­ci­sion.

he said over the years he had seen sev­eral mi­nor vari­ances “rub­ber stamped” and re­turned to coun­cil for ap­proval with far less in­for­ma­tion than the Feld­man ap­pli­ca­tion.

Camp­bell said he also didn’t like the fact that the res­i­dent had to pay $575 to the COA just to ap­peal the vari­ance when it didn’t need to hap­pen.

Camp­bell asked the CAO david lan­ders if coun­cil had the power to re­v­erse the COA de­ci­sion.

lan­ders said be­cause the com­mit­tee is arm’s length, and not sub­ject to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence, coun­cil has no au­thor­ity.

the mayor added to the dis­cus­sion say­ing that while coun­cil can­not re­v­erse a com­mit­tee de­ci­sion, coun­cil can de­cide not to spend any money to sup­port the com­mit­tee in the ap­peal process at lpat.

black said coun­cil had the op­tion of draft­ing a let­ter to be sub­mit­ted in the ap­peal process say­ing that coun­cil sup­ports the res­i­dent in her ap­peal.

bam­ford said he would sup­port a mo­tion to deny sup­port to the COA on this is­sue and to write a let­ter of sup­port for the Feld­mans.

Coun­cil voted in favour of the let­ter of sup­port for the Feld­man ap­pli­ca­tion and not to have rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the Com­mit­tee of ad­just­ment.

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