Charlottetown city council wants IRAC to back off

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 11, 2016

Charlottetown City Hall

Charlottetown City Council is tired of the second-guessing and wants it to stop.

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) recently overturned council's decision to reject an application to rezone a piece of property off Kensington Road for a proposed condominium development.

At its monthly public meeting Monday night, council voted unanimously to ask the provincial government, through the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, to amend the Planning Act so that IRAC can only uphold a council decision or return the matter back to council for further consideration.

Over the past 10 years, there have been more than 6,500 permits issued by Charlottetown's planning department.

In 20 of those cases, the matter was appealed to IRAC. In 10 of those 20 cases, hearings were actually held. In five of those cases, IRAC overruled council's decision. In the five other cases, the commission upheld council's decision.

Mayor Clifford Lee says when people elect a council they believe that council is going to make decisions for planning and development.

"To have another body come in and have the authority to (overrule) the elected bodies' decision, quite frankly, I think is wrong,'' Lee said following the council meeting. "I don't think the legislation should have ever been changed to allow IRAC to have that authority.''

Lee also serves as chairman of the city's intergovernmental affairs committee and has already met with the provincial government on the matter.

He says it was a good meeting, that the city's concerns will be taken under advisement but doesn't expect a quick resolution. It would, after all, require the legislature to sit and deal with it.

Lee says having to defend its decisions before the commission not only comes with a legal cost to the city but ties up staff.

"Sometimes it holds up development and sometimes it stops development from taking place altogether because, in this instance, this application has been with IRAC for a year and a half before they made the decision. I don't believe any development should be held up that long, regardless of what the decision is at the end of the day.''

Lee also dismisses any notion that council should consider that whatever decision is made on a resolution could be overturned by IRAC.

"What I think council needs to do and what council has done an admirable job of has been . . . basing decisions on the feedback council receives from the community. (Councillors) listen to the people who live in the community.

"That's who I am responsible to and that's who members of council are responsible to. We're the ones who have to go out there and get elected . . . the body that is accountable to the citizens of Charlottetown.''

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart