Why an adjournment is required

September 8, 2016   ·   0 Comments

A NIAGARA ESCARPMENT Commission (NEC) hearing set to open today (Thursday) in the Town of Mono municipal offices should be adjourned indefinitely to await a judicial interpretation of the definition of “development” found in the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (the Act).

The hearing is into an appeal by the Town of Mono of an NEC decision to grant a development permit to Caledon orthodontist Cliff Singer’s firm, 2222699 Ontario Inc., owner of a lake created by Consolidated Sand and Gravel Co. about 60 years ago in a huge pit just north of Mono Mills. An avid water skier himself, Dr. Singer bought a 204-acre portion of the worked-out pit in 2009 primarily for the lake and its potential use by his daughter Chantal, a water-skiing medalist, and since then the Singer family and friends have used it every summer.

The Act sets out its purpose as “to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment.”

Its section on definitions defines “development” broadly, as including any “change in the use of any land, building or structure.”

Clearly, the legislation gives the NEC a mandate to monitor all types of development, be it commercial, industrial or residential. But there must be “a change in the use.”

The Act’s Section 8 sets out the objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Plan itself:

(a) to protect unique ecologic and historic areas;

(b) to maintain and enhance the quality and character of natural streams and water supplies;

(c) to provide adequate opportunities for outdoor recreation (our italics);

(d) to maintain and enhance the open landscape character of the Niagara Escarpment in so far as possible, by such means as compatible farming or forestry and by preserving the natural scenery;

(e) to ensure that all new development is compatible with the purpose of this Act as expressed in section 2;

(f) to provide for adequate public access to the Niagara Escarpment; and

(g) to support municipalities within the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area in their exercise of the planning functions conferred upon them by the Planning Act.

No one could surely find fault with any one of those objectives, and some might be surprised at (c) and its support for outdoor recreation, which presumably includes water-skiing. That being the case, it strikes us that occasional use of a lake in the Escarpment Area for any recreational purpose fits perfectly within the stated objectives and ought not require a development permit.

However, there is another fundamental reason for the hearing to be postponed indefinitely. It involves an attempt by Dr. Singer to achieve an out-of-court settlement. In a letter to Mono Mayor Laura Ryan, he has proposed limiting his application to two competitions per year between mid-June and mid-September and given an undertaking to abide by Mono’s existing Noise Bylaw as well as any reasonable rules the Town might set for granting him a Special Events permit.

A troubling aspect of the matter is that Mono Council appears to have been kept in the dark as to at least some of the positions being taken by Town staff and Thomson Rogers partner Jeffrey Wilker, the lawyer piloting the opposition to the Singers’ modest plans for their lake.

Interestingly, when Dr. Singer appeared at a council session last spring and spent about 40 minutes delivering in-depth responses to concerns raised by Town staff, the response he got from both Council and staff was total silence, apart from a request that he leave them a copy of his notes.

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