The Fox and the Hen House

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Is the Fox Guarding the Hen House? Talk about conflicts of interest, keeping a developer who doesn’t even live in SADB on the committee overseeing our development! Thanks to the courageous efforts of one citizen, this will change – even if it takes a Quebec court to make our Mayor and council rethink their position.

Ste-Anne needs new rules for planning committee
Albert Kramberger. Source: The Gazette

Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue must redo policy on the formation of its urban planning advisory committee after a resident member successfully filed a complaint with the Quebec government.

Resident Michel Belleau, who sits on the planning committee chaired by Mayor Francis Deroo, filed an official complaint earlier this year after he said council ignored his pleas last fall.

Belleau had objected to the appointment of a committee member he described as a developer who actually resides in Senneville.

“The bylaw was against the (provincial) law,” Belleau said. “The law says it has to be a resident, but the bylaw says resident or owner. But not being a resident doesn’t work. That’s why I asked them to do an amendment to the bylaw in order to comply to the law but they didn’t want to do that. That’s why I went (to the ministry).”

In a recent letter dealing with his complaint, the ministry stated Ste-Anne’s existing bylaw regarding the makeup of its committee did not comply with provincial regulations since it allowed a non-resident property owner to be a member, whereas the ministry rules stipulate only residents can participate.

This month, Ste-Anne council adopted a notice of motion to change its bylaw governing the planning committee, which would include revisions dealing with its responsibilities, makeup and quorum rules.

The proposed amendment includes a provision to allow a non-resident land owner be part of the committee in a non-voting observer capacity, said director-general Martin Bonhomme, acknowledging Quebec had advised the city to make changes to its existing bylaw.

“However, the ministry agreed we could have anyone in the city, an owner, who could sit as a member of the (planning committee) without voting (privileges),” he said.

Belleau, meanwhile, said he objects to having a non-resident as a non-voting member, because it would be a conflict-of-interest scenario.

“That’s not right,” he said of the proposed loophole. “The owner who will be there is not a specialist,” he said, explaining from time to time the city’s advisory bodies can call on a specialist in a particular area to guide them for a short period but that person is never a permanent member.

He plans to state his objections during the June 10 council meeting.

“If they allow that, it’s going to be an all-out war,” Belleau said.

Having a land owner on the committee, even in a non-voting capacity, will give a promoter an inside edge and a chance to unduly influence committee members during their in-caucus meetings, Belleau said.

“A resident has no other interest other than having a nice and beautiful city and to comply to the rules of the city. But a promoter, that doesn’t work in my book. It is a conflict of interest,” he said. “Being a developer and sitting on the committee … they can influence the mayor.”