A Minden Hills council decision to disband its committee of adjustment has been criticized by existing members, although the town’s mayor says they are within their rights to make a change.
Committee members have received a phone call and follow-up letter, and the township is advertising for new committee members.
Two of five publicly-appointed committee members – Bill Blakes and Dick Schell – spoke with The Highlander on Dec. 1, as did mayor Bob Carter.
Blakes said he had been on the committee seven or eight years, and dealt with hundreds of applications, with no problems. He added while he suspects the move is because the committee went against the town planner on a couple of recent files, he claims the committee members were not given a reason for the decision.
However, he said his interpretation of bylaw 2084 s. 623 is that there has to be supporting rationale for the disbanding of a committee. “There was no reason given at all.”
Carter said, “I think it’s important that we didn’t fire them. We disbanded the committee with the intention of appointing a new committee. Anybody who was on the old committee could apply to go on the new committee. We can restart the committee at any time. It’ll come down to seeing who else in the community is interested and qualified.”
Carter added when they set up the committee following the last election, they wanted to be able to review its work. “This is sort of like a one-year review, and so, we’re going to reappoint for the upcoming year type of thing.”
Asked if they would reapply, Schell, who said he has been a township volunteer for 43 years and a member of the committee for 27, replied, “no, once bitten, twice shy.”
The committee – for which council chooses members – is looking for people to serve from 2024-2026. The deadline to apply is Dec. 8. The committee considers applications for minor variances from the township’s zoning bylaw as set out in the Planning Act. A minor variance may allow property owners to use their land in a way that does not comply exactly with the requirements of the bylaw. The committee comprises the town planner and five community members.
Carter added the committee is quasi-judicial and its decisions are final unless appealed.
“I’m not saying that everything has to be copasetic and there’s never going to be a disagreement… but they just seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so we want to see if there is a possibility of doing something different. Having said that, in a small community, you can’t make this just business, it’s taken as personal.”
Blakes and Schell said they are taking it personal as word spreads.
Blakes said during meetings, the members look at information from the town planner but also from consultants representing the applicant. He said they had recently voted in favour of the applicants on a couple of cases.
Blakes, who worked for the City of Toronto for 28 years and believes he is highly qualified, said, “they (council) may have authority to do it (disband the committee) but it’s questionable. There is something wrong with this.”