Conflict at city hall over variance
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.