London city hall: Council declines to hold another public meeting over project now before OMB

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A simple suggestion for a public meeting got city councillors riled up Tuesday night.

Politicians spent nearly an hour debating the best way to move forward on a controversial commercial and residential subdivision proposed for the city’s north end, which developers recently took to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Council wants a made-in-London solution to local issues.

But builders may not be willing to wait.

Barvest Realty filed an appeal to the OMB in July on the basis that council took too long to decide on its draft plan and request for a zoning amendment. The OMB handled appeals of land-use decisions provincewide.

The developer wanted to expand one of the commercial spaces within its proposed subdivision, planned for the south side of Sunningdale Road, west of Richmond Street. But residents don’t love that idea.

And when the subdivision came up at an earlier public participating meeting – and neighbours expressed concern – Barvest didn’t take its chance to speak.

Coun. Stephen Turner described that move as “abdicating,” though others said Barvest expected another “kick at the can” at a future meeting.

What’s the harm in another public meeting?

That was the argument from Mayor Matt Brown and Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert, who suggested a second public meeting would give one last chance for a decision by locally elected officials before going to the OMB.

Other politicians were worried about setting a precedent.

“I think this is also a very slippery slope we could go down and I’m not prepared to go down it,” Coun. Tanya Park said.

Coun. Anna Hopkins called it “unnerving.

“It just doesn’t feel right that we’re doing this when it’s at the OMB,” she said.

The motion to refer the matter back to committee for another meeting – brought forward by Hubert – was “hammered,” by his own description, and lost 8-6.

Council ultimately decided to advise the OMB of its objection to the subdivision plans. City lawyer Barry Card said that move could help if the matter gets to the OMB, because the Planning Act requires the tribunal to take the city’s reasons into consideration when a local council refuses a zoning amendment bylaw.

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