Comment from Susan Albert: May 4, 2015 “Character of Long Branch” meeting at The Assembly Hall

The following comment is from Susan Albert (I have added headings for ease of online reading):

I too would like to thank Councillor Grimes and his staff for organizing last night’s meeting in response to the will of the residents of South Long Branch. However, my perspective is somewhat different than David’s.

If dealing with issues that affect a particular physical area of the City (neighbourhood), I believe such meetings should be geared specifically to the residents of that area. Otherwise issues that do not apply to the neighbourhood being serviced by such a meeting are brought into play, and the valuable time allotted is watered down by issues not pertinent to the purpose of the meeting.

If other neighbourhoods would like to convene a meeting to discuss their particular and specific issues, the will of the residents of those neighbourhoods should be made know to the Councillor’s office so that they, and their specific concerns, can be addressed at a separate meeting geared to topics they deem important.

Limiting of attendance

I believe that by trying to limit attendance of last night’s meeting to the residents of South Long Branch (first), there was less of a free-for-all than what would probably have occurred otherwise. As for limiting the time available – if left open-ended, these types of meeting do tend to deteriorate into free-for-alls, unfortunately.

An important issue that seems never to be addressed (to my satisfaction) is one of definition. In speaking with residents of this area, one topic seem to hold great importance – the preservation of the character of our neighbourhood. However, the City’s definition of character (a soul-less, technical, architectural, bylaw-centric, impersonal set of guidelines for building in a particular area), and their definition of “neighbourhood” (an area of land with specific street boundaries) seems to be so much different than ours.

While we are trying to preserve/protect the soul of our neighbourhood, the City hasn’t a clue what we’re talking about. Their guidelines seem to have nothing to do with people – or with the reasons those people choose to live in a particular area. The people I’ve spoken to have chosen to live here for reasons that have very little to do with property values, although affordability is obviously a major contributing factor.

Severance of lots

With developers converging on our neighbourhood, “lots” (not homes) are being sold and severed. New builds seems to rise from the ashes at warp speed, using the cheapest materials architectural designs possible. Front gardens are being replaced by parking pads and mulch, with no effort being made to beautify the street or contribute to the lovely character of this area. Cheap, fast turnover seems to be the order of the day.

A big topic at last night’s meeting seemed to be the fact that the OMB (more often than not) seems to rubber stamp in favour of developers. Perhaps we should put more effort into trying to convince the Province that the duties and responsibilities of the OMB should be downloaded to the municipal level (with funding attached) so that the human factor has a “hope in hell” of being considered. Perhaps a letter-writing campaign to Peter Milchyn and to Kathleen Wynne would be in order – cc-ing the City officials that would be involved/impacted if such a miracle should happen!

Ontario Municipal Board

One piece of very valuable advice having to do with presentation to the OMB was given at last night’s meeting. I have presented to the OMB when a developer appealed the C of A decision to deny a severance in my neighbourhood. It is terribly important that these presentations be well-coordinated and well-thought out.

Each presenter should cover one topic – and cover it well – with facts, not emotion. Bring back-up – photographs, articles about the history of the area, facts that support your position, studies, etc. Bring petitions, letters, etc. – but don’t expect them to be the deciding factor. Unless the people who have signed the petitions or written the letters are present to be “cross-examined” (in effect), the OMB will not give them a lot of weight, unfortunately.

Back-up materials

Prior to the meeting, provide your back-up materials (collated into a presentation folder or something equally professional) to the adjudicator and to the other parties involved. Be passionate – in a polite and professional manner. This same advice can be given for local meetings such as the one that was held last night.

A good rant can make the person ranting feel a lot better, but rarely accomplishes as much as a well presented argument. I DO understand the “rant factor” – sometimes when you think you’ve exhausted all avenues open to you and still have received no support or satisfaction, a good rant is all that’s left available.

Good first step

I agree with David – last night’s meeting was a good first step. I hope we will be able to continue this journey to a satisfactory destination. I too would like to thank all those involved – the organizers, Planners, Councillor Grimes and his staff, the presenters – all those who gave up their evening to attend in hopes of protecting, preserving, enhancing and living peacefully in our neighbourhood.

Best regards to all –

Susan

 

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