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Monday, September 28, 2009

Council approves deal with Sifton for 34 Debbie Lane

Council today held a special meeting, first as Committee of the Whole in camera, and then as Council to examine and ultimately approve a deal that will save the Provincially Significant Wetland at 34 Debbie Lane from being developed as a condo by Sifton Properties Limited.

What's the deal?

The city will pay Sifton $550,000 for the roughly 6 acres of land. In addition, the city will rebate Sifton $150,000 of the $350,000 they will be required to pay to the Parkland Reserve Fund as cash in lieu for another development in which the originally allowed densities on which the assessment was based were not realized in the actual build out. In return Sifton will drop its case before the OMB challenging Council's decision not to allow the development of a two-unit condo.

Is this a good deal?

While the acquisition is expensive, it is not precedent-setting. The property has been zoned for development and, as such, has a high commercial value. As a provincially significant wetland, it also has a very high environmental value. As well, our case before the OMB was not guaranteed and even if successful, would not eliminate the right to develop the property, only increase the cost of the development to mitigate against environmental impacts. And it would have been an expensive OMB hearing, costing around $140,000 in legal fees. Even if we had been successful, there was the prospect of appeals costing even more money and still no protection for this environmental gem.

What other issues arose?

The major other issue is the fact that at least two people leaked confidential information to The London Free Press, thereby eroding the trust of their colleagues, endangering the negotiations and putting the taxpayers at risk. Shame.

How did Council vote?

Supporting the purchase: Mayor DeCicco Best, Controllers Barber, Polhill and Hume, and Councillors MacDonald, Armstrong, Winninger, Usher, Orser, Lonc, Eagle, Branscombe, Miller, Bryant, and Hubert.
Opposing the purchase: Deputy Mayor Gosnell and Councillors VanMeerbergen and Caranci.
Councillor Baechler abstained because of a pecuniary interest as she lives close to the property being purchased.

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