Well, Hello WBRA Members, guests and friends! It has been a while and yes, in our online invite we stated we were delighted to be hosting this event. BUT you should have felt our excitement when your replies came in fast and furious! It was fabulous ...THANK YOU! So, here we are, let’s get right to it.
What we’d like to do tonight is get reacquainted and let you know what the Association has been doing, what we’ve accomplished, and where we’re headed next.
There will be plenty of time for questions at the end.
Our Association was created after the 2018 municipal election when many people expressed concern about the results of the voting and what direction the town would take with the return of the majority of the councillors from the 2010 to 2014 council.
Our first major accomplishment was in this very room when we generated thousands of dollars to pay the legal fees and advertising costs needed to fight the fight for information and to communicate with the public.
I believe we spent wisely and effectively, as a major accomplishment was the inclusion of a paper ballot option in the upcoming 2022 election and the change to an internet voting system that at least claims to produce verifiable results.
This win did not happen overnight! We began to work towards our goal in 2019 with emails and a Freedom of Information request to Town Hall. The Information we were requesting about the election was denied and as such we could file our FOI appeal with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which we did.
We also teamed up with the Wasaga Business Association and we each sought and received legal advice and had lawyers’ letters sent to the Town Clerk on our behalf.
There was no response to any of those letters. However, in June of this year, Council voted on the Clerk’s recommendation and the result is: and I quote:
“The Town of Wasaga Beach will use internet voting and paper ballots in the 2022 municipal election.” End of quote.
AND, our Election Committee will continue the effort in 2022 by pressing for transparency in the voting process. MORE CONVERSATION ON THIS IN 2022.
So, make no mistake, this is a Win, and we REALLY hope you make use of it!
Now onto the Arena/Library
I have titled this “What Does it Take to Get an Answer”
Well, for starters, it’s pretty clear that Council overpaid by some millions of dollars for the piece of land. If not, why are they fighting so hard to keep the land appraisal value a secret? We do know this:
From 2011 to 2019 the land was consistently assessed by MPAC at 1.4 million dollars.
In August 2019 the property was sold for 1.00 dollar to a numbered company.
In Nov. 2019 the Town paid Tru-Star Developments Inc, 5.4 Million Dollars.
Thus we began questioning:
June 2020: WBRA sent a friendly request via email to town CAO, Mr. George Vadeboncoeur, requesting copies of the commercial appraisal for said land.
July 3, 2020: The CAO forwarded the email to the town clerk, asking her
to respond to our request.
On the same date, the Clerk responded stating the information requested could affect the interests of a 3rd party and could involve confidential records, and, as such, we would need to follow the Freedom of Information (FOI) request process.
July 8, 2020: Submitted the FOI request to the Clerk.
July 15, 2020: Received acknowledgement of the request and were assigned a file number.
August 12, 2020: We received the decision from the Town stating they were denying access in full due to Closed Minutes and third Party Information and we could appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC).
I’m sure by now you are realizing what an elongated process it is to work through the channels of government.
August 25, 2020: We submitted our appeal to the IPC.
September 28, 2020: We received confirmation of receipt of our file and that it was in the hands of an investigator.
February 10, 2021: Received acknowledgement that a mediator had now been assigned to this file and to expect delays due to COVID-19.
February 12, 2021: Had a lengthy conversation with the mediator and stated our argument would be that Public Interest Overrides third party and privacy.
April 20, 2021: Phone call from the mediator stating she had made her decision and would put the file together to send to adjudication; however, due to Covid-19 this process could take a year or two!!
May 31, 2021: Received notice from our adjudicator review officer that our appeal is now in the inquiry stage and the town has been notified and has until June 22, 2021 to submit any additional factors which are relevant to this appeal. Which They Did; to the tune of over 200 pages as to why they should not disclose!
I’m going to share with you here just one of their reasons: and I quote:
“Should the report or any of its contents be disclosed, it is a certainty that the appellant, as President of the Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association, will publish and misrepresent the information in an attempt to denigrate the Town. The group in question, has been successfully exploiting the FOI process for a number of years since the last election in an attempt to gather fodder for the next election, feeding misinformation to local monthly periodicals to undermine Town Government. This course of action would mean subjecting the appraisal firm and their work product to intense and often injurious public scrutiny. It is likely, as a result that the Third Party, and other professionals in the industry, would be reticent to supply the Town with similar information in the future, not only as a result of the inevitable misuse of the record, but also resulting from the inability of the town to protect information supplied with the expectation of confidentiality.”
End of quote:
I have to say I find this quite insulting and unprofessional.
However, there were some glitches (errors) on the part of the IPC so the Town was invited to add additional material and resubmit by August 18th, which they did. We had had until September 1st, for our response, which we did.
Is your head spinning???
I honestly thought we were nearing the end of this road, however, I decided to enquire with the Adjudication Review Officer as to a timeline when we might expect a decision, as I wanted up to date information for this evening’s meeting.
Here is the email I received this week:
“Thank you for your e-mail. Adjudicator so and so will shortly invite the Town to submit reply representations. You will receive notice of that step. Then, after receiving the Town's reply, she expects to move this appeal to the order stage. At that final stage, the appeal enters the adjudicator's queue of orders to be drafted. Adjudicators aim to issue the order within approximately 6-8 months after the appeal reaches the order stage, but that is only a rough estimate and actual time until a decision may vary depending on the complexity of issues and the adjudicator's file load.”
So there you have it ...for now.
Why so secretive? Where is the transparency? I think we’re winners either way on this one.
We’ve learned much and matured as an organization over the past two and a half years. We launched our website, published regular eblast newsletters and notifications, ran radio ads, published numerous articles and advertisements in The Beach Booster, been quoted in articles and ran ads in the Wasaga Sun, and we created a petition to HIT PAUSE NOW on the construction of the 60 million dollar arena/library project. We also published the HIT PAUSE NOW postcard that was mailed to every household in the Beach that we could reach. (the postcards are available here tonight)
Although the pandemic closed all meetings to the public, we have attended every Committee of the Whole and Council meeting via Zoom. We also created a Facebook page, not a group, to reach a wider audience. This came after successfully shutting down the fake group that was set up to confuse the public.
We’ve organized ourselves and become a force to be reckoned with.
Heck, we even made “Truth Corner”!! The mayor was not happy with our radio Ad about the Great Wall of Condos proposed for Beach area 1 and 2. She complained that no condos are planned for Beach Area 2 but the fact is the zoning still allows condos and the height limit was increased to 6 storeys.
As for the direction the Council has taken, we can see where we’re headed by looking around.
The Downtown Development Master Plan no longer looks anything like it did in 2018.
There’s the mini casino at one end of the town, along with the proposal of a major development and destruction of wetlands on the Beachwood Corridor, the massive 60 million dollar arena/library at the other end of town, and six-storey condominiums planned to dominate the beachfront. All while the planning rulebook gets rewritten every time another developer wants a zoning change.
We’re headed away from developing a downtown core at the heart of town and towards a sprawling mass of new homes at the edges of our town limits.
Make no mistake. Development is not the problem. How it’s planned and managed is what matters. We need to preserve our unique character for future generations and at the same time, build a community that serves the needs of both our residents and visitors.
FINALLY, just in the past few days a sitting councillor, Stan Wells (who has been on Council since 2003, barring 2014 – 2018) spoke up at a committee meeting and I am quoting a portion of his comments: “I think as a council we have to begin to say what do we want the future of the town to look like. So, I’m concerned what is our real belief in what the town should look like, because I don’t believe we have one.” View the video here.
End of quote: I am truly at a loss for words, we should all be concerned! You may wish to watch this video for yourself. It is on our website. And again thank you Judy, for all the research work you do on our behalf.
So, we ask: “Where do we want to go from here?”
It will take ORGANIZATION, COMMUNICATION, and PARTICIPATION
Organizing is what we are doing.
Communication is what is happening from all different segments of the Beach from West to East. People are getting vocal and being noticed. Petitions are being written, signed and presented. From our very successful PAUSE the arena/library project to Beachwood Residents fighting for their neighbourhood. Also, tonight we have set an example to show that the town can re-open council meetings to the public.
Participation: When those council chamber doors open again and the voters are allowed in, this council will find out that it’s no longer a case of elect ‘em and forget ‘em – they’ll have tons of questions to answer. If you voted for the members of this council, didn’t vote for them, or didn’t vote at all, your voice will be heard once again.
This will be a perfect time to present our Petition that now has over 1100 signatures from residents clearly requesting to PAUSE this build. Numerous people have taken the time to add their comments.
We encourage our members to join us, along with their friends and neighbours at a RALLY – COVID compliant, of course – to let this council know that we want to participate in the decisions that we and future generations will have to live with for a very long time. We want meaningful engagement, not secret negotiations.
Our mayor says we are a small group of about 6 members (those names listed as directors on our website). She has even asked for our membership list! Of course, we protect the privacy of our members.
Let’s discuss this:
This is our home, our Beach and we deserve to be part of the process.
Thank you very much for your attention to my long winded speech…..????
And we now look forward to listening to you. We are all in this together!
Membership renewals are extended to an October 15th, 2021 deadline. Annual renewal fee is $20 per household with unlimited email addresses. You can submit your payment online at email@example.com or mail a cheque to us at 2-291 Main Street - Ste 135, Wasaga Beach, Ontario L9Z 0E8