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Joint Statement from Burlington Mayor Meed Ward and Councillor Bentivegna Regarding March 23 Millcroft Public Meeting Cancellation

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*UPDATE (Thursday, March 26, 2020): We received an announcement from the Province that all planning process deadlines are paused and no Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) hearings will be scheduled for the time being while we continue to face the COVID-19 spread.

What this means is that no public or virtual meetings will be scheduled for the Millcroft Greens proposal for the foreseeable future, and we are no long at risk of appeals to the LPAT for non-decision if we don’t meet timelines, as those have been paused.

The Provincial announcement was made on March 20, after our letter to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was sent and is retroactive to March 16.

**Please see a joint statement below issued by Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna.

Burlington, Ont. — March 16, 2020 — As each day passes, it is getting clearer that these are challenging and unusual times we are facing. COVID-19 is a very real threat to the health and well-being of people around the world and as we’ve seen with the recent announcements of locally-confirmed cases, it’s certainly here in Burlington.

Burlington’s Crisis Management Team (CMT) is meeting daily and has activated the City of Burlington Emergency Response Plan at a Level 2. We need to be doing everything we can to minimize our risk and prevent overwhelming our healthcare system, and most importantly, we need to be smart and safe in how we do it.

With that in mind, we had originally looked at modifying the initially-planned meeting regarding the potential development in Millcroft set to take place on March 23 in light of the current COVID-19 situation. It is clear now that cannot happen, and the meeting has been cancelled.

The meeting will not be rescheduled for the next three weeks and here’s why: Burlington City Hall has been closed to the public from March 16-April 5; and we cannot provide the proper public notice on how to participate in a digitally-modified meeting.

We are still considering hosting a digital meeting at some point beyond those three weeks and will be looking into other ways to collect feedback from residents.

Why is a digital meeting still being considered?

Our decisions are guided by what is in the best interest of the community. Developers have a legal right to apply, and the City has a legal obligation to process the application within a legislated deadline or we risk an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) for “non-decision.” This takes the decisionmaking out of the hands of the community, staff and council and limits public participation.

As such, it is not in the best interest of the community to delay public meetings on development applications. So, we need flexibility and understanding from the community, and your best ideas on how we can still collect public input.

The purpose of a public meeting is threefold: to provide information about the proposed development and the planning process; to answer questions; and to allow residents to provide input.

All of these can be achieved by phone, mail or digital means, and have been used by residents in every other development application based on what was most convenient to them. A public meeting is only one way to collect feedback, and not always the most convenient — even outside of COVID-19 — for residents to participate given busy schedules and other commitments.

We also understand the value to the community of a “show of numbers” at a public meeting, and getting the same information at the same time, and there are some digital options for that as well, such as a petition — that has been used successfully by other resident groups before COVID-19.

So, we are looking to residents for your suggestions on how you would like to receive information, have questions answered and provide your input.

Some options available are:

  • calling or emailing the developer (and copying the planner on the file) with questions or feedback:
  • drafting a petition to demonstrate the number of people and their position on the matter
  • regarding a public meeting — a live webcast with a telephone town hall call or app option for live interaction. This would satisfy the meeting goals of providing information during the webcast and getting questions and comments in real time.

Please let us know if you have other suggestions.

We are in unique times trying to find a way to keep residents healthy and safe while also allowing the business of the city to continue and meeting our legal obligations.

We know many residents want to wait until there is again the option for a large public meeting to provide their input, but realistically, we do not know when that will be possible. We are asking for your understanding, cooperation and ideas during these times because we may not be able to hold large public gatherings for some time, but development applications still need to be processed within a deadline to protect the interests of the community.

We are also asking the Province for flexibility in processing deadlines and virtual public meetings but until that happens we are under the legislated time frame.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

City of Burlington

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates that will be updated as new information becomes available.

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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1 thought on “Joint Statement from Burlington Mayor Meed Ward and Councillor Bentivegna Regarding March 23 Millcroft Public Meeting Cancellation”

  1. I cannot see any reason whatsoever why the Millcroft developer meeting should have what appears to be claimed as an absolute, legal entitlement to a free pass around all the COVID public assembly restrictions that are, and may be further enacted, that everyone else has to obey without question.

    The threat of an appeal to LPAT down the road sometime indefinite is not a credible or supportable reason in the present circumstances. It is possible that City hall and LPAT will not be having any public hearing meetings in general due to COVID.

    If the developers have any sense of good citizenship in this extraordinary time, then they should postpone the meeting until the restrictions are lifted and safety restored. This would be the ethical and conscientious and right thing to do

    If 250 persons are the current legal public assembly limits, then the developer should be required to organize to accommodate up to that that number, with provisions for safety. If they cannot hold a safe meeting then they should not hold any meeting at all.

    The City should not be giving them a pass on this.

    The City should, as it read, be pressing the Province to suspend the appeal entitlement mentioned for the period of time needed to meet government policies on COVID.

    Citizens have the legal right to peaceful public assembly and this is being suspended temporarily, and so the developer rights to appeal under legislated time limits should not be any different with respect to a logical temporary suspension.

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