Major Changes Coming to How Mississauga Residents Voice Concerns Over Development
Development in Mississauga is always a hot topic, especially for certain long standing neighbourhoods in this city. But one benefit to that was that planning meetings at the city were held on an evening when most people can attend after a long day at work or driving the kids back from school.
However that is about to change, according to the City of Mississauga.
Starting in March, Planning and Development Committee meetings with start at 1:30 pm, moving from the evening time of 7:00 pm. City staff said this was a recommendation in response to the changes ushered in by the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Effective March 2019, Planning and Development Committee meetings will start at 1:30 p.m. Want to share your views on planning-related policies and development applications? Learn more about the many ways to get involved https://t.co/rEozwr1gnn pic.twitter.com/Iz9HyodQJ0— City of Mississauga (@citymississauga) February 22, 2019
The city also said that if there are a high number of agenda items or a need for an evening meeting due to a specific application, an additional 6:30 p.m. session will be added, but this would only be for “special circumstances.”
Residents were encouraged to provide feedback via email, signing up for email updates as well as contacting one’s local councillor. Meetings will continue to take place on Mondays and be live streamed on the Mississauga city website.
However, during the General Committee meeting on February 27, city staff were directed to re-examine the changes to PDC meeting times and provide a report back to GC.
Some councillors responded that this was a chance to try something different. “We did agree to this change but I also raised concerns at the time that residents would have trouble attending and that we would have to agree to hold evening meetings as required,” Ward 9 councillor Pat Saito said in an email to insauga.com.
Saito also contends that with many items on the agenda that could be dealt with during the day, this would mean shorter meetings during the night as there was not always a need for evening or night meetings. “We are trying this new process and if it proves to be unsuccessful we have the opportunity at any time to go back to the former scheduling.”
During the GC committee meeting, a number of other councillors piped up with their thoughts on the change.
Newly elected Ward 1 councillor Stephen Dasko said putting out a press release on a Friday afternoon was not the best way to communicate this change, citing 55 Port Street (the proposed 10 storey condo) as something important his community needed to deal with.
Dasko also asked that that application be put under the 6:30 pm time due to ‘special circumstances’. He also suggested that 5:30 pm would be a more reasonable start time, instead of 1:30 pm.
But Ward 5 councillor Carolyn Parrish was very much opposed to attempt to end a process that has not been tried yet. “Evening meetings are really rough on the older residents, especially if they run well into the evening,” she said. She also pointed out how other councillors would try to get the PDC chair to speed up meetings if the application was not in their local ward.
Parrish also pointed out how residents who come to speak on development applications basically say the same thing, despite being asked to provide new information only. “You can see the people during meetings gathering around themselves getting their stories straight; having people jibbering around all night is not a good idea.”
She suggested that a specific PDC committee be organized with just a few councillors who are interested in planning issues, along with the local councillor, instead of having all members of council be on PDC.
And not only have current office holders piped up…so have former council candidates, although their comments were more reserved and more on the side of residents.
“I think a daytime schedule creates difficulties for many to attend planning committee meetings and public input is crucial on these matters, especially for new & infill applications. A common issue with voters is trust in the process and this move will not help build that trust,” former Ward 1 candidate Natalie Hart said.
“Local residents shouldn’t have to take time off work to have their voices heard. Public participation is important on local development issues and I hope council ensures continuous developments have evening sessions,” said former Ward 6 candidate Joe Horneck.
The Town of Port Credit Association issued a statement condemning the change in time and how this will ‘greatly diminish’ residents’ ability to get their voices heard.
While technically still ‘fulfilling the requirements,’ elimination of regular evening sessions of PDC is not in the spirit of citizen engagement the City prides itself on. Although the City press release states: “Written comments are considered with the same weight as verbal submissions at PDC,” anyone who has attended at PDC knows that verbal presentations are far more effective in demonstrating the support of tens of dozens of citizens for a position.
The impact of this decision goes well beyond the mechanics of scheduling and the convenience of all parties (except of course, the citizens who must attend on their own time). It is the loss of our municipal government being truly open to the public by welcoming residents into what is essentially our civic living room, at a time we can most likely attend.
We don’t want to be told to ‘mail it in’. We want the public accountability that comes from having citizen concerns acknowledged by our elected Council, the Planners, and the Developers, in an open forum with the Citizens in attendance.
TOPCA also addressed the issue of long meetings and said existing procedures can still make sure they don’t run too long.
Evening meetings can go long on occasion. If under the new LPAT rules there is to be less time restriction placed on public comment, or if more applications come back for review, then solutions can surely be found. Councillors already hold Community Meetings before a contentious application goes to PDC, which serve to refine the issues list and focus residents’ comments. The PDC Chair can still ensure that points once made are not repeated. Scheduling routine items (e.g. signage) for an afternoon session can clear the evening for development applications impacting residents.
Process is a concern here. This matter does not appear on a previous Governance Committee Agenda, where we would expect to see provision for public input and a recommendation directed to Council for a decision. The method of communication by the City implies this is a minor, administrative matter.
From the conversion of the Ontario Municipal Board to the “Local Planning Tribunal” that is supposed to ‘level the playing field’ for residents to the Ford government’s now withdrawn plan to allow more “business friendly’ development to take place, there have been some major changes to the way development takes place in Ontario.
Mississauga city staff also brought up the possibility that the Ford government may make more changes and convert the whole process back to the way things were under the old OMB rules.
Do you think changing the starting time for Mississauga planning meetings is a good idea?
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