Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Bylaw passes first reading

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Council narrowly approved first reading of a bylaw that would replace its decade-old Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Bylaw (SDAB) Tuesday night.

While the completely revised bylaw contains several changes that will bring it better in line with provincial legislation, the one that has created the most debate among council was to what degree council should be involved. Under its current design, the SDAB is made up of three members of the public and two members of council, although councillors act as citizens and not representatives of council while serving on the board. As presented to Morinville Town Council May 10, the new bylaw would have seen a phasing out of council’s participation on the board – the ratio changing to four members at large in 2011 and five members at large in 2012. The transitioning to an all public board was recommended by the SDAB itself based on recommendations they received during training sessions. As presented Tuesday night, the SDAB bylaw offered a compromise whereby the board would transition to four public members and one council member effective from the SDAB’s 2011 organizational meeting and onward.

However, the bylaw was amended once again to leave things as they are with two councillors sitting on the quasi-judicial board. Councillors Nicole Boutestein, Lisa Holmes and Paul Krauskopf voted against leaving things as they are. Both Holmes and Krauskopf are council’s current representatives on the SDAB and were in favour of reducing council’s presence on the board to just one.

Councillor David Pattison, who made the motion to amend the bylaw, said he was still in favour of two council members sitting on the SDAB. “I think it is more appropriate to have two than just one because of the scope of subdivision and development appeals and the Municipal Government Act.”

It was a position and view shared by Councillor Gordon Boddez. “We need to have representation on a board such as this,” the councillor said, adding he understood difficult appeals could create an uncomfortable position for councillors. “I know it’s not easy to sit on a board like this. In my view it’s important.”

Both Councillors Holmes and Krauskopf are aware of how difficult it can be to wear the two hats. Krauskopf said people often believe councillors on boards carry more weight than other members.

“I think being elected officials people think we have more influence,” Krauskopf said. “They think we have the right to be getting information that we shouldn’t be getting.”

Holmes agreed reminding council that as an SDAB member she and Krauskopf are representing themselves as citizens and not themselves as council members. Holmes said by going backwards and maintaining the status quo, council was sending a message to the board that they did not agree with the recommendations to reduce council’s presence on the board.

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“You are just asking for more opportunities for these problems to occur,” Holmes said.
Although Morinville’s SDAB will continue to have two council representatives, an amendment made earlier in the evening by Councillor Holmes would prohibit council members from serving as either chair or vice chair of the board.

The SDAB Bylaw will go to second and third reading at a subsequent meeting of Morinville Town Council.

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3 Comments

  1. I think the danger of institutional bias comes with having a Councillor presents on the SDAB especially with regards to an Appeals launched against the Town’s own infrastructure and projects such as the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. In this situation, facts and reports were delivered to the SDAB, all indications of the SDAB’s findings were in favour of the Appellant yet the final outcome was to allow the development to proceed despite the finding that the quality of life of adjacent residences may be negatively affected. Former Counsellor Phinney, stated during the election race that she sat on that Board and took the time constraints into consideration when making a decision. This is obvious bias on behalf of this Counsellor as the SDBA has 14 days to make a decision. In this case, only two days if that were utilized and the decision was finished in time for the sod turning ceremony a day later. The only time constraint was the Town’s own building schedule which should not of had any weight in the decision process.

    Perhaps a more effective amendment should read: That no Councillor should be on the SDAB, hearing appeals against the Town Office of Morinville’s own projects.

    If a Councillor feels they can provide vital advice to the SDAB in an appeal against the Town, then they should replace the CAO, as its her job to stand before this Board and speak and present evidence on behalf of the Town.

    By insisting they need to have a Councillor on the Board is to insist that Council needs to keep an influence or bias on that Board.

    After all, how can anyone expect a Councillor to pour their heart, time and effort into any project only to sit on the SDBA against it, and still maintain a neutral opinion?

  2. I agree with Tim Stirling’s comments and believe that there should be two additional members at large that sit on the SDAB board when there is an appeal made against the Town’s own projects. I believe that Conflict of Interest could play a part in decisions when councilors sit on the SDAB board for these types of appeals.

    Linda

  3. I agree with some of the comments made above and know that the Cultural center decision put council members in a tough place.

    I also know that it is hard to get members at large to come forward and have their names stand for these boards. By having councillors on the board they have two less positions to try and fill. There have been times in the past where the board was short of interested members and had to scramble to get someone. Now, mandatory training is required before one can sit on the board and the town would not be able to meet the hearing time lines if short of members.

    Whichever way the final bylaw goes, I think that alternates should be selected and trained, so as ones resign there are no vacancies on the board. If alternates can be found!

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