Developers Find Strange Bedfellows: ZENNER

 

Councillors who didn’t take developer donations line up with developers, long-time reader and commenter Andrew Zenner says:

At one time, you might have been able to make the argument that councillors who accept campaign contributions from developers were more prone to support developments. That is no longer the case, however.

Those councillors who don’t accept developer money have so readily bought into the argument that we need more height and density everywhere that they now automatically vote for almost every development proposal regardless of what they may think of the developer. Our current chairman of the planning committee, Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper, has never taken developer money, but his recent voting record in support of most development proposals is probably not much different than that of the former chairwoman of the committee, Jan Harder, who had no qualms about being as close as possible to developers.

Different reasons for support, but same outcomes. Remember, few councillors had a problem with all of the proposed density at Lansdowne and many wanted more. If they voted against the proposal, it was because of the subsidy aspect.


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4 Responses

  1. Nicholas says:

    I’ve heard Councilor Leiper mention a couple of times now, and the buildings about to blot out the farm sun are a prime example, that there’s no point in opposing a development that planning staff have already approved. He doesn’t see merit in spending city money to oppose something that the city will eventually lose when the file ends up with the OLT. Given that city planners have the biggest rubber stamp known to man, I’m not sure it’s as simple as saying developer money rules all.

    Not that I’m trying to excuse Leiper on this one, goodness knows I disagree with a lot of his politics, but it’s not as cut and dry as ‘developers bad’.

  2. The Voter says:

    Nicholas,

    Very good points but I think the answer is two-fold. The first part has to be let’s clean up the planning approval process at the staff level if councillors are unwilling to deviate from their recommendations. Someone needs to explain to them, speaking very slowly, that the power structure at City Hall is supposed to be based on staff working for Council to provide them with advice, not the other way around where many councillors are afraid to go up against staff reports. The second tranche of reform needed is to upend the OLT so that it becomes a body that looks at more than a strict black-and-white interpretation of development policy and looks at what is best for the community as well as what the community wants.

    In the current set up, small community associations (CAs) spend ridiculous amounts of money opposing wealthy developers who can write off the battle costs as “business expenses”. Those CAs in smaller or less affluent communities are unable to access the OLT process, flawed as it is, because they don’t have the funds to get into the game.

    Using the Baseline towers as an example, it’s not hard to understand that the benefits gained from the Experimental Farm’s work are not just local but are on a national and international level. Developing hardy strains of wheat isn’t covered by any zoning bylaw I’ve ever seen but it shouldn’t have to be. There should be community benefit provisions in such circumstances that would overrule parochial zoning provisions. The OLT should be required to balance differing concerns about the use of a piece of property in the public interest.

    There should also be a funding mechanism at the OLT to provide community associations with reasonable costs to properly represent the local residents there. Perhaps developers should have to contribute to such a fund as part of the submission of any planning proposal. That would possibly incentivize them to work with the community before it gets to an oppositional process.

  3. Andrew says:

    There is an apparent shift in the approval process. The Ford government has made massive changes to many things to help developers, mostly against the public interest in Bill 109.

    For example the approval process is now delegated to staff. This makes it easier for applicants to sway a civil servant than a elected official. I had some delegated authority in the federal Government , but it was never given to this level. Where is the accountability:

    Date: Fri, Sep , 2023

    Hi xxx,

    The next step would be site plan approval subject to various conditions. There is no Planning and Housing Committee approval as site plans are delegated to staff and the province Bill 109 removed the ability for Council to lift delegated authority.”

  4. Theresa says:

    Voter and Andrew, what you’re proposing is what SHOULD be happening, but I doubt it ever will. The OMB started out being impartial and effective (at least it was in the 1990s), but before long become developer-influenced. The OLT, its replacement, is even worse — a mouthpiece for developers — under the Conservatives. We need to keep defending community-focused planning, but until there’s a sea change in our current political system, money and influence will prevail. Still, we need to continue to stand up for our rights, because letting them roll right over us will result in even worse outcomes.

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