Wednesday, July 16, 2014


OK. It's not really "Breaking News."  It's BREAKING RUMOUR but that title doesn't look very good.  Here goes:

A very reliable source has revealed that the actual transcript of the cross examinations of Rick Shular, Stephen Passero and Doug Martin from the Conflict of Interest case against the four councillors (Bob Steckley, John Hill, Don Lubberts and Paul Collard) will soon be made public.  If that happens, the public can then read for themselves just how and why this suit was created.  It is rumoured to have explosive, under-oath testimony by at least one councillor who claimed that he was told what to do regarding the lawsuit by none other than the current EDTC and FELRC head, Jim Thibert.  This information may become available as soon as Monday.  This would make transparent just how far certain town officials went to destroy the reputations of four duly-elected councillors.  Stay tuned.

Before we go back to the Pettit Road Situation, I'd like to point out a recent example of what can happen if a dispute goes to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Dominion Road resident Shirley Belanger is expected to speak at Monday night's regular council meeting about an OMB ruling that has been ignored by the town.  Once again, good friend of and campaign donor to Lame Duck Mayor Doug Martin, developer Ed Lenchyshyn figures prominently in the scenario.

According to Ms. Belanger's Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Fort Erie Times on June 26, she and a dozen other neighbours in the area near the Old Fort on Dominion Road appeared at town council last September with a petition signed by 43 citizens protesting the proposed "variance to the town by-law which would allow Ed Lenchyshyn to change the frontage on a (72 foot) lot so he could squeeze two houses on the lot instead of one."

Ms. Belanger, being closest to the lot in question, appealed to the OMB in January with the decision coming down on March 25.  The "OMB ruled that the variance could be granted with the condition that a tree preservation plan be prepared by a certified arborist to the satisfaction of the Town to protect existing trees along the vacant lot," according to her letter.

She continued: "An arborist report was prepared, however, the town didn't require Mr. Lenchyshyn to abide by the requirements set out by the OMB, otherwise he would not have been allowed to build the second house on the property." She went on to recount her visit to the planning department "Abandon All Hope, Ye Regular Folks Who Enter Here," and the Lame Duck Mayor himself who said that Mr. Lenchyshyn would be fined for "not upholding the ruling" (BFD) Basically, the town did not feel itself responsible for upholding the OMB ruling against the mayor's good friend, campaign donor and braggart that he could "get anything he wanted in Fort Erie as long as he ...."

So, Ms. Belanger has now become aware of what many have reluctantly become aware of: the planning department only "listens" to developers - even when residents and neighbours in large numbers express their displeasure in the town's favouritism towards developers' whims.  Two houses now sit on the lot that was originally supposed to have only one - and the arborist's report was ignored.

Of course this all played out already over the past few years in the "plan-that-will-not-be-named" at a certain beach down the road. Mr. Lenchyshyn has a number of "questionable" development plans; plans that seem to ignore the neighbours or the ideals of good planning.  Why would he care anyway? He doesn't live in Fort Erie and he has made a lot of money in Fort Erie with the help of a very co-operative planning department.


In what seems like another case of the planning department not listening to the people, Monday night's Council in Committee Meeting of Fort Erie Town Council featured a report from the planning department about an amendment to a previously accepted site plan for Verona Homes'  Spears Gardens on the east side of Pettit Road, north of Garrison (Hwy. 3)  

The original plan called for 95 single, detached houses in the development.  The new request is for zoning changes to allow for 27 townhouse units that will bring the total residences up to 100.  It also calls for a large rainwater storage lagoon on the property. It would also include increased lot coverage in the four blocks of townhouses resulting in reduced lot frontage and side yard borders. According to Mr. Kernahan from the town planning department, the development would still adhere to the Spears-Highpoint Secondary Plan that dictates that the maximum density be 16 units per hectare. In addition, the townhouse heights would be raised to three stories, still within the parameters of the plan. 

Nearby residents weren't necessarily against those aspects of the zoning amendments, but they were upset that the developer wants to tear down a house he owns at 1220 Pettit Road to create an access/egress point for the development. This new road would form the main road into and out of the development and it would empty right onto Pettit Road which is currently heavily traveled and dangerous because of a blind hill near the proposed new road. 

Carmela Agro, speaking on behalf of the firm that planned the development, Upper Canada Consultants, explained the reasoning for the plan modification as "giving more options" in housing to potential buyers. She made rather vague references to possible "east-west road connections" in the plan, but failed to give specifics as to exactly where other roads might be placed other than a smaller road for emergency vehicles.  She did promise that a Traffic Study would be concluded in less than a month from that night and the results would be sent to council for further information.

Now, this is where the Statuary Public Meeting over the amendments to the site plan took a rather bizarre turn:

Dean Dimezio, former President of the Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce and insurance broker whose office is on the south side of Garrison at Daytona Drive, got up to speak IN FAVOUR OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE SITE PLAN.  Except he didn't.  He started out on the right note: "I'm in favour of development!" Then he went on a long-winded account of traffic problems at the corner of Pettit Road and Garrison Road and the other corner of the traffic light, his insurance office and Daytona Drive. He asked, "How will 100 homes help the situation?"  He went on to complain that the intersection was "too small right now as it is."  He hoped that council wouldn't just "push this through" as "this isn't going to get any better with 100 more houses."

He ended with the following warning: "If you approve this, please take a heavy look at the traffic. It's not all fun and games like they're making it out to be."

Whoa. That sure was an interesting take on the concept of speaking "in favour" of plan changes.  Remind me next time we need someone to speak "in favour" of some hare-brained idea from the planning department.

To show just how out-of-touch the planning department is about how things work in Fort Erie, a Pettit Road resident, who did speak against the road plan for 1220 Pettit, pointed out that at a public meeting on July 8, he talked to someone from the planning department about the already problematic situation for school buses dropping kids off along Pettit Road.  The planner suggested "moving the bus stop" not realizing that there are no bus stops along Pettit; kids are dropped off in front of their homes. Another resident asked that the Traffic Study be conducted once the kids are back to school to factor in the school buses into the busy traffic patterns on Pettit Road.

Bob Steckley came up with a suggestion that appears to have been way on the back burner for the development planners: extend planned cul de sacs to Florence, then Albion Road then ultimately to Benner Road to access Garrison. Also suggested is creating a north exit onto Bertie Road. The planner reluctantly said that those options could be considered.

So, the report was for information reasons only and will be re-visited at least once more before it is voted on. Unfortunately, Don Lubberts had to declare a pecuniary interest because the firm he works for, Riel Electric, has done work for the developer in the past.  He left council chambers while the discussion went on.  Lame Duck Mayor Martin was a late arrival to the proceedings as he was attending a United Way Event.

Stay tuned on this one.  Could end up at the OMB if council does not sort out the traffic problem to the residents' satisfaction.