(Editor’s note: This exchange speaks for itself. An on-point letter from a constituent who has concerns about the closed manner in which the Town if being run of late; a simple response noting that concern would be conveyed to the chief administrative officer, and; comments from other councillors which can be most simply described as bullying for giving that response. All of these emails went to all elected members of council as well as CAO with one exception. Coun. Randy Vaine opted to add in the new director of planning, Antonietta Minichillo.)
To the Mayor and
Members of Council
I opened my copy of the Grimsby Lincoln News this morning to find an advert on page 24 from the Planning Department for an Open House re the application for this site on 5 Windward Dr.
It says it is to be a Zoom meeting.
This is NOT an Open House.
It is too important a project to have it presented to “the public” in this fashion.
I realize the time we are currently living in BUT this needs to be a real PUBLIC meeting.
It could be an all day Open House with limited people held at the hotel (as were previous meetings). I attended previous ones there for this project. It would allow anyone then to see what they are proposing.
You cannot be expected to see the plans and designs on a 20” monitor on your computer.
Social distancing and the number of people at anyone time can then be controlled. If they are required to go over their plans multiple times, why should we worry. They are the proponent in this project and they should be prepared to explain themselves to the public.
I am very concerned about what appears to be going on in the recent incidents with the Planning Department. Why is no one available to speak to. Surely there ought to be one person present in each Dept. at the Town Hall.
Finally, I want to say that I am not opposed to the proper development or re-development of any site. What we are getting in the way of proposals far exceeds the development criteria in many recent cases. That is what so many of us do not support.
It is disheartneing to see the Planning Department acting as supporters of the developers rather than protectors of the Town’s interests.
Perhaps it is time to clean house there and install a group of people who work for the citizens of this town.
Coun. Lianne Vardy’s repsonse to Mr. Ward.
Dear Mr. Ward,
I think your suggestion for an all day open house is a good one and one that could be managed will respecting Covid restrictions. By copy of this memo I am asking our CAO Mr. Schlange to follow up on this suggestion.
I also agree that it is inappropriate for planning staff to advocate on behalf of developers. As with the federal public service the staff is there to implement the will of elected officials, who represent the public.
Thank you for your suggestion – I trust I CAO will be responding.
Coun. Kevin Ritchie’s response to all of council
In response to the recent email you sent about 5 Windward Dr.
We as a council are responsible for policy, and the Zoom meeting is a tool which we as a council have provided that helps maintain the safety of our community. An all day meeting with multiple people going in and out is not provided in our policies; but further to that it could put the safety of our residents and our staff at risk especially in light of the provinces situation with covid numbers on the increase. (ex. who would be responsible to sanitize the meeting room etc.) Our current by-laws is what staff are following and any comment to suggest otherwise is misleading and unacceptable. If we as a council would like staff to look at options we should be bringing this forward as a council, and council should be directing staff and this possible scenario so if there are any negative effects it is the responsibility of council and not staff.
Further to that we as individual councilors should not be directing staff. We only have powers when we act as a council and pass decisions as a whole council.
In my perception of this email I am asking you to apologize for accusing staff in acting as supporters of the developers. This is an attack on their integrity and any comments that attacks ones integrity goes against our code of conduct.
Coun. Randy Vaine’s follow-up.
Wow, all political differences aside.
I have to agree with Councillor Ritchie, your email is way offside and offensive.
Not only have you publicly accused our planning staff of being; In my interpretation of your email, “Untrustworthy, unprofessional, biased, and showing favoritism,” and this can be deemed as defamation, harassment and abuse towards our staff, but you have also clearly and publicly shown a contempt and hostility towards our planning staff.
I have no issue if you disagree with the way they do things but their style is no different than any other planning department I have observed over the past 30 years of being involved in municipal politics.
Planning staff are given guidelines from both the region and the province which they have to follow; it is then their job to suggest the best possible solution for our town based on the guidelines that they must follow.
While I appreciate the fact that you do not agree with them and that you have an opinion, that is not a problem, BUT we are not allowed nor entitled to publicly humiliate each other or town staff, if you have contempt or a bias against our planning department that is something that must be kept to yourself and not publicly displayed because then you embarrass not only the staff but also the council and the town as a whole.
I have to agree with Councillor Ritchie in that since you were out of line the very least is that you must do is issue a public apology to ALL planning staff and copied to the same resident who wrote this original email.
I know the writer of the original email and he is a resident of Ward 3 so I will be reaching out to him to discuss his concerns as well.
To C.A.O. Schlange and Antonietta, our Director of Planning, I can only offer an apology on behalf of myself as a member of council for this inappropriate action, please know that I and other members of Council DO appreciate the work that you do in your respective roles and that the comments of Councillor Vardy do not represent the council’s unanimous opinion.
Councillor Vardy, What happened to the motion that you recently put forward about working better together?, I have yet to see any forward movement in that direction, I am very concerned with what I feel have been personal attacks by some members of council against staff and others.
I have to admit that I am very disappointed and disheartened by your email, I am very concerned that our relationship with our staff is being severely damaged.
Councillor Randy Vaine