By Mike Williscraft
So Gabe DeSantis is a pretty cheesed off camper, and he should be.
I have noted in this space several times in the last couple of years he really got sold down the river on more than one occasion with his Century Condo project.
In past conversations, I have discussed this with Gabe directly, with members of town council and with many members of the general public who follow or inquire about this project.
I have considerable sympathy for him as this project – which will be great for downtown when it happens – has been sooooo close to getting approved it would make your head spin.
The last meeting of council before the election in 2018 the previous group was on the edge of stuffing it through. This council does want it to happen – as do many residents and business folk – but they also want it built to appropriate design specs.
The matter was brought back to a special meeting of council last Thursday, all to meet an arbitrarily set deadline of Aug. 31 for having a decision made. The project does not have to remain on the shelf for a long time. Any litigation can be avoided if plans get in line with what council wants. A two-thirds vote of council would be needed to get the matter back on the table and it could them be dealt with at the next meeting.
Sounds simple, but that “with what council wants” part is at issue.
The project and concerns with it cannot be simplified in the manner Coun. Kevin Ritchie attempted last week by saying the problem was 10 parking spots; the meeting before and then last week issues evolved into other areas after the parking issue was solved.
The simplicity which Ritchie and Councillors Randy Vaine, Dave Kadwell and John Dunstall look at the condo project is cause for alarm on many fronts, but no more so than their general conduct over the last year-plus.
Generalizing, they say it’s a great project and should move forward. In a purely Motherhood view, that is correct. It is a great project and even people that are bitterly opposed for whatever reason need to step back and realize that.
Yes, one can think a different aesthetic would be more palatable. Maybe you want a three-storey instead of four…whatever your preference is, today’s planning guidelines will take care of that. What residents should expect, if not demand, is that Town staff and council ensure the things that are within in their control fit Official Plan, bylaw and good planning principles.
The vote last Thursday, by all rights, should have been unanimously opposed to what council had in front of them. None of that is the fault of DeSantis. The entire blame, as Coun. Sharpe noted, lays with staff who presented major, brand new pieces of information with little or no supporting research and on other points provided zero critical analysis on which council could base its decision.
It was not a pom-pom cheerleader as the previous one, but it was seriously deficient.
The introduction of tandem parking spots as a solution to a 10-spot parking deficiency was the least of concerns. The introduction of the possibility of shifting control and liability of the right-of-way running through the lot to DeSantis during construction and reverting back to the Town when work is done left many scratching their respective heads.
That right-of-way – the ownership of which is still to be determined by the courts – underlines all aspects of the project as those on council who are opposing the project believe there should be more consideration given to their desires for the build since the developer is seeking to acquire what they believe to be the town-owned passage.
Ritchie, Vaine, Kadwell and Dunstall are prepared to give it away with minimal concessions, as was the previous council.
The project is good, and will be good, but as Coun. Dorothy Bothwell noted, I’s need to be dotted and
T’s need to be crossed and approving a half-baked (at best) proposal is not good for anyone.
And I have no problem if Gabe feels the need to call and yell at me, but making threats against me and this paper, as well as other DIA members doesn’t help him at all. I get his anger, but he’s a smart man. If he looks at what was presented he had to know it could not fly.
That is on Town staff.