Allegations about the perception of impropriety over the handling of a rezoning application did not sit well with Armstrong’s chief administrative officer.
Kevin Bertles took exception to Coun. Jim Wright’s comments at the regular meeting of council Monday, March 22, about an official community plan/zoning bylaw amendment application presented by Longview Resources Ltd.
The proposal calls to redevelop the Royal York Golf Course property for 141 single-family housing lots of different sizes, a reduced par-3 executive golf course and some parkland. Longview has also proposed trail connections throughout the site for public use.
Staff’s recommendation on the application for Monday was to give it first reading, then send it out to 19 different agencies for their comments before bringing it back to council for the second reading.
“This is way too big an operation and proposal not to have more meetings and discussion,” said Wright. “Through no fault of the planner (Dan Passmore), he’s brought forward this stuff to rezone it eventually. There’s just too much information missing.”
Wright opposed bringing the application forward.
“I think there’s a really high probability of inappropriate influence here; for our planner to have to bring this information forward incomplete troubles me,” said Wright.
“That leads to the perception of poor transparency by council; that leads to the perception of cover-up. It leaves a perception of corruption. It leaves a perception, I’m not saying it’s there, but there needs to be more research on this. I can’t support this motion. I would suggest we throw this back to the planner. It’s not right the way it’s going here.”
Given a chance to speak, Bertles said he resented Wright’s allegations of “undue influence, corruption, lack of openness.”
“It’s easy for someone to take a Trump-like stance and make allegations,” said Bertles.
He said there’s no personal gain for staff when they bring information forward to council to decide on.
Bertles noted there’s an obligation on the city to consider applications and policy states when an application comes forward, it must have two readings.
“We have not done that in consideration of the multitude of issues that surround a development of this size in this kind of community,” he said. “We’re trying to lead with a gentle hand on this and to suggest otherwise, I think, is irresponsible.”
The City of Armstrong issued a release Tuesday denouncing Wright’s comments.
“The comments made by Councillor Wright are his alone and do not reflect on the city, its council, city staff, or the developer in any way. Councillor Wright made these accusations during a public meeting of council without substantiating them, and the city considers them baseless and inappropriate.”
Coun. Linda Fisher expressed some concerns about the application, including flooding, groundwater, street widths, lack of sidewalks and lack of a current traffic impact study.
Coun. Shirley Fowler said council was not jumping the gun, and has been wading into this application “for months and months and months.”
“Going ahead with first reading will have a positive impact as opposed to a negative impact,” said Fowler.
Council voted 6-1 in favour of first reading of the OCP and rezoning application bylaws, with Wright opposed, but was unanimous in sending the proposal to 19 agencies for comment before second reading.