By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Former Morinville Mayor Ted Code offered some advice to Mayor Lloyd Bertschi and council Tuesday night. Speaking at the end of the Committee of the Whole meeting held at Morinville community High School, Code cautioned council to think twice before removing council’s seat on the Subdivision Development Appeal Board (SDAB).
Currently the five-member board consists of two members of council (Deputy Mayor Paul Krauskopf and Councillor Lisa Holmes) and three members at large. The board hears appeals to developments approved by the Municipal Planning commission.
As part of a revision to the SDAB bylaw, originally crafted in 2001 during Code’s term as mayor, administration is recommending dwindling council’s presence on the board to one councillor in 2011 and to no council presence in 2012.
“You should never be a majority, but you’re here every day,” the former mayor told council. “Your input is valuable.”
Code said council was elected to represent the residents of Morinville and that he felt council’s insight on the SDAB was of value. Although the former mayor saw no problem with removing one councillor from the board in 2011, he cautioned against removal of the second in 2012.
“Really think hard and long about taking that last person off,” Code cautioned, adding the fact council is in tune with what is going on is important to the process. “You can bring things to that table the other people can’t.”
Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development Greg Hoffman in introducing proposed changes to the bylaw explained the Municipal Government Act requires that council cannot form the majority of board, but that the trend in other municipalities is towards no council involvement in the quasi –judicial, arms-length board that deals with appeals against Municipal Planning Commission decisions.
Hoffman recommends completely replacing the town’s now 10-year-old bylaw with a new one that would include definitions, roles and functions of members, and other elements required by the Municipal Government Act.
The proposed bylaw has been reviewed by Hoffman’s department as well as by current SDAB members, the latter of whom have endorsed the document but recommended that a provision be added to make the $200 fee for appeals non-refundable.
Both Mayor Bertschi and Councillor Pattison advocated for some provision to assist those for whom the $200 fee might be financially cumbersome.
“Why should be people be denied their right to appeal based on the fact they cannot afford it,” Bertschi asked.
The proposed bylaw is set to officially come before council at the Apr. 26 meeting.
I don’t agree with what the former Mayor is saying. My experience with the SDAB regarding the Morinville Community Cultural Centre is this: The SDAB is given 15 days to review evidence and make recommendations. Both former Counselor Phinney and Counselor Van De Walle sat on this particular board. Lengthy evidence from Health Canada and the World Health Organization on concerns of noise and its negative effects on children, building codes on what’s needed for environmentally noise friendly buildings, an analysis from Acoustical Consultants Inc. was given on expected noise levels from the Centre and a demonstration of what actual noise levels are with the use of a decibel meter was presented to the Board. A lot of info to read and to consider. Instead this Board only took 2 days. On the fourth day it was the sod turning ceremony, which the counselors attended. Counselor Phinney then went on record as stating “I sat on the SDAB Hearing in May regarding this item. There was alot to consider when we looked at this and the time constraints that were before us.” The only time constraint on that Board should have been reviewing all the evidence within the 15 days available, not the Town’s building schedule. The Board then went onto say “ noise will exceed acceptable levels with a frequency that will negatively affect the quality of life of those living in such close proximity to the development.”
Therefore the only thing I feel these counselors brought to that Board was “Institutional Bias”, after all, this was their project.
Maybe what we need is a totally independent SDAB, to ensure blind, over ambitious initiatives from the Town are kept in check. If the former Mayor feels a Counselor should be present, then let them stand along side the CAO when she gets up during an Appeal to speak on behalf of the Town.