P.E.I. lawyer says IRAC plays important role with municipalities

Dave Stewart
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Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission serves an important role, says a Charlottetown lawyer.

Jonathan Coady said there is nothing unique about IRAC; almost every province has a board set up to review decisions made by municipal councils.

"There are tribunals throughout the country performing the same function and reviewing municipal decisions,'' Coady said on Tuesday.

Charlottetown city council has passed a resolution asking the provincial government to amend legislation taking IRAC's power to overturn their decisions away.

No one at IRAC wanted to respond to the story about council's vote, so The Guardian interviewed a lawyer who has appeared before the commission on numerous occasions, representing both sides.

"These tribunals provide an important safeguard for all property owners. They ensure that planning and development decisions will be fair and merit-based. It is a legitimate function in our legal system.''

RELATED: IRAC overturns Charlottetown council decision on golf course condos

RELATED: Charlottetown city council wants IRAC to back off

Over the past decade, of the 6,500 building permits issued by Charlottetown's planning department, 20 have been appealed to IRAC.

Half of those cases went to a hearing and five decisions were overturned.

Mayor Clifford Lee argues it doesn't make sense for an unelected regulatory body to overrule an elected council.

He added that councillors have to take into account the views of the residents they represent, as well as the developers who are trying to get projects off the ground.

Coady said tribunals like IRAC give the public an efficient and economical alternative to the court process, which tends to operate slower and not be as familiar with municipal planning issues.

"Municipal councils are entrusted with a wide range of duties. They wear many hats. But the legal constraints on a council differ, depending upon the type of decision being made.''

He said the ability to make a planning decision, for example, is given to a council by the legislature under the Planning Act.

It is statutory, not a political, duty.

"For that reason, the law requires councils to act in a quasi-judicial or court-like manner.''

Coady said that planning decisions affect the right of a land owner to develop property and given the importance of that interest, the law requires more from a municipal council than simply a 'yes' or 'no'.

"It requires fairness, accountability and a decision grounded in planning principles, as opposed to political concerns.''




Organizations: Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, Charlottetown city council

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Just saying
    January 18, 2016 - 13:02

    The lawyer seems to miss the point. Technically, his take on this may be correct. Ethically, I have trouble agreeing that an unelected body appointed for varied and sometimes spurious reasons should over-ride the elected body. IRAC serves the interests of the private sector while Council takes into consideration that of its citizens as well. It's called a democracy.

  • MFH
    January 18, 2016 - 12:37

    IRAC has very little public credibility. It is mostly a center for patronage awards and functions on the whims of whatever government is in power. It needs to be truly independent and manage by people who have the knowledge , skills and experience to do so.

    January 18, 2016 - 08:51

    I believe the problem nearly everyone has with IRAC is that it is an unelected body that political parties use to reward certain favorite members to a term of office. Very few, if any, have any particular talents for the job they are required to do. It's not like they were members of the SCOC, they are by and large, political hacks appointed for their partisan political work. All one has to do is look at the way gas and oil prices are handled to see that they don't know what they are doing, what makes you think they know what is good for city development?

    • joe blow
      January 18, 2016 - 11:52

      Upwester, I think you missed the point of Mr. Coady's statements...in this particular case, and others dealing with the planning act, IRAC ensures that a municipal council followed its own bylaws. Elected officials, such as municipal councillors should not have the ability to go against their own rules, IRAC provides an appeal mechanism for people to ensure that the rules have been followed...thereby taking the politics out of the equation. IRAC has many different roles, including the pricing of fuels, rental agreements issues, etc. The topic at hand is an appeal for a planning related matter, not fuels. Furthermore, while, we don't always agree with the price of fuel, we shouldn't claim to be experts on the matter and criticize how prices are decided.

      January 19, 2016 - 09:23

      Regardless of whether or not it is fuel or other matters, it is still the same bunch of unelected, appointed party hacks. My point about fuel is that they do whatever the oil companies tell them and make their decision, based on what they are told, without any independent verification..

      January 19, 2016 - 09:47

      joe blow...I didn't miss Coady's point at all. As stated, 6500 building permits were issued by the city in the last decade and only 20 have been appealed (1/3 of 1%), and only in 5 cases have they been overruled by IRAC, or 1/10 of 1%, I believe the city has made the correct decision in almost every case., only being overruled in 5 out of 6500 permits. My comments previous were dealing with IRAC itself and the way that they are appointed and don't seem to be accountable. . It's interesting to note that no one from IRAC would speak to the press about their decision, instead the press has to speak to a lawyer not involved in this case (at least I don't think he is). Also, keep in mind, this lawyer will probably have to go up before this board sometime in the future. The total arrogance of IRAC is astounding, they feel that they don't have to answer to anyone, so therefore they just go on doing what they want with no repercussion from anyone, especially not the Liberal gov't.