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OPINION: Democratic rights are being denied

Charlottetown Coun. Greg Rivard.
Charlottetown Coun. Greg Rivard. - Dave Stewart

George L. Crawford

Guest Opinion

In April 2018, Chapman Bros. applied to the City of Charlottetown’s Planning and Heritage Department for a permit to build an asphalt plant on a pristine piece of farmland located at 249 Sherwood Rd.

The property was zoned residential at the time. The residents of the nearby Penny Lane-Countryview subdivision located in Ward 8 were not notified in writing by the city. On May 10th, area businesses and residents filled the meeting room at the Rodd Charlottetown for the public meeting. A petition signed by residents of the subdivision was presented to council by Ward 8 Coun. Jason Coady. Businesses informed council they would be seeking legal representation. Chapman Brothers were allowed to withdraw their application before council could vote even though section 3.10.3 of the city’s own planning act states in part “if an application goes to a public meeting, then the council shall determine the disposition of the application and the applicant may not be allowed to withdraw the application after the public meeting.”

One year later, during a council meeting on May 13th, 2019, the city’s planning committee began an end run around the citizens of Charlottetown and Charlottetown councillors with the introduction of an amendment to the city’s bylaws to allow for the construction of an asphalt plant. Just one year ago the citizens of Charlottetown overwhelmingly rejected the construction of another asphalt plant in the city.

The planning committee now dismissed citizens’ concerns and ignored councillors’ recommendations. Planning committee chairman Greg Rivard was quoted as saying “there was nowhere in our current bylaws, in our zoning, that allowed for an asphalt plant, or a concrete plant, so we were asked to investigate that.” No mystery here as to whom it was that asked. In regard to the May 13th council vote, the first reading of the amendment passed six to four with councillors Bob Doiron, Mitchell Tweel, Jason Coady, and Julie McCabe opposed.

During the June 10 council meeting, Coady made a passionate appeal to his fellow councillors to not pass this amendment. The amendment was deferred to the next council meeting by a vote of seven to three with councillors Rivard, Alanna Jankov, and Mike Duffy opposing deferment. It is difficult to understand why these three Councillors and others would support the building of another asphalt plant in the city. They were elected to represent the best interests of all the citizens of this city, not just those living in the wards that elected them. Unfortunately for the residents and businesses of the area, the passing of this amendment will mean they will have to endure decades of pollution from this new asphalt plant.

The residents of Sherwood will have no public meeting to express their disapproval. A change using an amendment doesn’t require a public meeting. This is a devious and divisive way of managing our city. With the passage of this amendment, the planning committee, the councillors who support the passage of the amendment and the company they are supporting will have denied you the right to vote. A basic right in any democracy.

I do have one thought to pass on to the residents and business owners who are to be polluted by this asphalt plant. One of the proposed locations is on the Sherwood Road, adjacent to the Confederation Trail. The Confederation Trail is a lineal park established by the provincial government when it purchased railway lands from CN Railway two decades ago. This province welcomes 1.5 million tourists each year. Thousands of them walk and bike into Charlottetown each year on the same section of Confederation Trail adjacent to the proposed new asphalt plant. It is their entrance to the city. First impressions do matter. I can’t imagine the provincial government, Charlottetown, or any city allowing an asphalt plant to be established beside one of its parks.

Anyone with an interest or concern in this matter should contact all councillors immediately. I have just been informed that a special closed council meeting has been called for Monday (June 17). Closed means not open to the public. No pesky citizens allowed to complain and ask their councillors, especially those representing other wards in the city, why their councillor would even consider voting for the construction of an asphalt plant in Ward 8 when they would most assuredly, vehemently oppose one being built in their own ward. The word hypocrite comes to mind. And reporters, working in the interests of the people, are excluded because of their tendency to ask embarrassing questions in their quest for the truth. Guess which amendment will be pushed through council on Monday for passage. Citizens’ rights are being trampled upon. Their democratic rights have been denied.

George L. Crawford is a resident of Charlottetown.

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