Well, last night meeting of Parry Sound Council was about as interesting a session as I have experienced in the past five years. The only exception might be last year’s fluoride sessions. Watching the crowd milling around the hall before the meeting it was jokingly asked if fluoride was on the agenda. The meeting met expectations in terms of entertainment value. It’s worth reviewing a few of the ‘acts’.
There was a deputation by Donna Dellio, Chief Executive Officer Belvedere Heights (‘Belvedere’) concerning the issue of parking on Belvedere Avenue. Ms. Dellio’s deputation was in support of the existing traffic pattern to ensure there were adequate parking spots available for the public, staff and suppliers. I took exception to her deputation on two points that I believe are either incorrect or inappropriate.
- She claimed that the parking lot at Belvedere was consistently full, and she related that at on one occasion she was required to park down closer to the downtown. Well I call Bull Shitake on that. I have been up to Belvedere multiple times, at all times of day, all days of the week, and have yet to see the pay parking lot across the street full. On most occasions there are no more than one or two cars in the pay lot. Now, the lot beside the Belvedere building is almost always full. This is reserved parking for either residents or staff, I’m not sure. And of course, there have been times I have headed up to Belvedere to visit and have found the ‘free’ on street parking is full, but at the same time the parking lot is almost totally empty. There is more than enough parking up on Belvedere to meet the current needs, without on street parking, but it costs $2. We know how Parry Sounders, visitors and staff, hate to pay for parking. The deputation seems misleading with respect to a need for on street parking. There is enough parking, but it’s not free. Take down the parking arms and the problem is solved. But there is that parking lot to be paid for, $2 at a time. Oh dear, that’s a problem isn’t it?
- As part of the deputation Ms. Dellio suggested that part of the parking problem was that because of heritage considerations the pay parking lot was restricted to 19 spots, not the 32 that they originally requested. I am outraged. So, they took perhaps the most iconic outlook in Parry Sound, paved it, put up a pay parking lot, and then resent the fact that they were not allowed to pave even more? Shame on Ms. Dellio for blaming the locals for trying to trying to preserve a bit of what makes Parry Sound special. That’s another example of why we can’t have nice things in Parry Sound.
Whether or not there is a need for one or two-way access on Belvedere Avenue is immaterial to me. But let’s not be loose with the facts to support a particular position.
Closed Session Discussions and Decisions
There was an interesting by-law approved last night that flew right over the head of anyone at the meeting. After the RBC move was discussed and voted on, Council moved to the regular session. One of the first actions of Council was to vote upon a by-law that had been discussed and agreed in closed session. It presumably concerned the agenda item:
c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal or local board purposes. (Property Purchases)
There was no discussion or explanation of the by-law during the meeting. It was simply brought forward and voted upon. After the meeting I spoke with the Clerk and asked to see the by-law. The by-law was an offer to purchase a property in the boundaries of Parry Sound from a government agency (I don’t recall the details). Turning to a couple of the Councillors after the meeting I asked what it concerned and why there was no discussion or explanation of the by-law before or after it was approved. They seemed a little hesitant to offer any details until I indicated it was approved as by-law so it was in fact public. They offered the barest of details, but enough to sniff what’s going on. I have in the past requested that Council be fully transparent with respect to items that are ‘agreed’ in closed sessions and simply brought forward to open session without any opportunity for the public to offer input, much less understand what’s going on.
There is something going on that also has an impact on the 2017 Parry Sound Budget. I have a sense of what it is and I’m surprised the Town hasn’t provided more information to the public. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a SURPRISE. I’m not sure how you feel about surprises, but I’m not a big fan of them when it comes to things that may impact my pocket book, in the near or long term.
I’ll see if the Town offers more information in the next week or so, either through a press release or an ‘interview’ with one of the official media outlets, before I offer what I’ve managed to discover. There is no conspiracy here, just a seeming desire of Staff and Council to get things done out of the view of the public. It surprising how many people think it’s easier to get things done in the dark. Well actually it’s about keeping others in the dark. That’s why we have Sunshine requirements.
Royal Bank of Canada Move
This was the big item on the agenda. The bank wants to move from their current location at the Mall to the Oastler Park Shoping Plaza (Walmart plaza). Any move would require approval by Council, an amendment to the Town’s Official Plan, and approval of the amendment by the Province. There was quite a bit of confusion and drama surrounding the decision that I won’t go into, I’ll leave it to the ‘official’ media to cover it. It’s the kind of news that captures online clicks. The bottom line is that no final decision was made and it will be back on the December 20th agenda. But I will make a few comments.
- I have written in the past that ‘I don’t have a dog in the fight’. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. In this case I support the status quo in terms of what the Town’s Official Plan states with respect to the location of banks. If there is an interest in allowing the free location of banks then let’s have a discussion of the issue and as appropriate change the Official Plan. Why have plans if they can be thrown out at the seemingly arbitrary whim of certain Councillors. It would seem to me that if the Official Plan were to be disregarded it should require a unanimous approval by Council, not a split vote, or one decided by the Mayor.
- We seem to have a a Trumpkin on Council. I’m referring to Councillor Saulnier. In general, I do not call out council members by name, but it’s appropriate here in my opinion. The Trumpkin approach in my opinion is to ignore facts and protocol/procedures. At last night’s meeting Councillor Saulnier, who was in support of amending the Official Plan and allowing the move, made the claim that the Town isn’t growing so we should do something different. This implied ignoring the Official Plan’s long standing rule that banks, bars and alcohol retailers be located in the downtown. Well actually Councillor Trumpkin, Parry Sound is growing. The last census (2011) found that the Town of Parry Sound had grown by 6.4% while McDougall was flat and Seguin was down by 6.7%. Compared to a few decades ago the population hasn’t changed much, but after a precipitous drop in population it seems that growth is back. Detroit would be delighted to see its population return to what it was three decades ago. And let’s remember that Parry Sound has little developable land, and what land we may have, notably Louisa Street, has been designated as a low priority because of the expected cost of infrastructure. The willingness to toss out plan and protocol, in this case the Official Plan, is so Trump-like. Parry Sound is not in a crisis situation where it is appropriate to encourage a free-for-all. Shooting from the hip is a valid approach, but be sure not to shoot yourself in the foot. It’s ready, aim, fire not, ready, fire, aim.
- The RBC wants to move right now. But won’t that take a change to the Official Plan, and don’t changes to the Official Plan need to be approved by the Province? I’m not up on municipal process and procedure but that presumably would take some time, probably several months. Does that fit with the apparent urgency to revise the Official Plan? Perhaps the Town can provide some clarity on the timelines to Council and Public.
- In case you are wondering who voted for and against the move, here’s a summary. For the move: McGarvey, Saulnier, Marshall. Against the move: Keith, McCann, Borneman. Absent: Horne. If you have an opinion I suggest you contact one of the councillors to express your thoughts on how they should vote to represent your interests.
Woo-hoo the best free* show it town. Let’s see if there is a plan to set up reserved seating for the December 20th meeting. I’ll be there.
Closed Sessions. Can North Shore Rugged Trail Users Expect a SURPRISE?
- Actually nothing is free. Consider it part of the bonus you get for paying taxes, sort of like your one free dump day tag. (Conditions apply)