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Peel council meeting could see repeat of recent walkout

Fireworks are likely at a Peel Region council meeting Thursday over controversial development and planning in Caledon.
June 24, 2015
By San Grewal

A fiery confrontation over land use is expected to continue Thursday at Peel Region council, after Caledon councillors staged a dramatic walkout two weeks ago, shutting down the last meeting.

Allegations of a conflict of interest in a recent $9.4-million property sale to a developer by Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson were thrown at him two weeks ago and questions were raised about how the town is making land use decisions that will affect the entire GTA.

A motion was pushed by Brampton and Mississauga councillors to have the province step in to deal with controversial planning and development in what is geographically the GTA’s largest local municipality, where hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to settle in the coming decades.

All five Caledon council members who also sit on Peel Region council promptly got up and walked out on their colleagues from Peel’s two other municipalities, which hold the balance of power at the region. The motion died on the floor and the meeting had to be abruptly ended, as rules state that at least one member from each of Peel’s three municipalities has to be present.

Now, ahead of Thursday’s meeting, which will resume where the last one ended, neither side is backing down.

“No.” That was Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish’s response Tuesday, when asked if she will withdraw the motion she forwarded two weeks ago to have Ontario’s provincial development facilitator go into Caledon to assess and make recommendations on how planning and development should proceed.

“What are they worried about with facilitation? If you go into the OMB to fight a fight you can’t win, that’s a dramatic move. Facilitation is not a dramatic move. Mississauga and Brampton don’t believe Caledon’s planning is following normal procedures. If they’re afraid that facilitation is going to lead to revelations like Allan Thompson selling his farm to a developer, is that what they’re concerned about?”

Thompson publicly defended himself against the same allegation at the regional meeting two weeks ago, stating he was not in a conflict regarding the land transaction. It was reported right before the meeting that according to documents obtained by the Star, dated April 20, Thompson sold property to developer Primont Homes Inc. for $9.4 million.

Thompson confirmed to the Star after the regional meeting that he participated in April 14 votes at a Caledon town council meeting in which councillors directed staff to ask the province to “expedite” release of lands along a proposed transportation corridor where his land was situated.

He added: “The bottom line is, in my opinion, I’ve done nothing wrong because it is a provincial initiative and they’re representing my municipality and the other areas that it involves.”

Asked about the timing of the April 14 vote, days before the date on the land sale documents, Thompson responded: “Theoretically, I didn’t own the land at that point. Basically everything was firmed in November of last year. The closing was in this April. But the bottom line is, under the Municipal Act, I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m perfectly up and up.”

By “firmed,” he meant a verbal commitment, Thompson said.

He then confirmed that under the land sale agreement Primont will continue to pay a mortgage to Thompson for five years on more than $5.6 million not yet paid for the land.

At a special Caledon Town Council meeting Tuesday evening to address the regional council’s motion to bring in the provincial development facilitator, Thompson was accused by a member of the public of being in a conflict of interest and asked to step down.

He denied he was in a conflict. However, another councillor, Gord McClure, who owns land next to the property Thompson sold, did declare a conflict and removed himself from the vote, though he had voted on the same issue last month.

Caledon council proceeded to support a motion rejecting the provincial facilitator.

That sets up what could be another dramatic confrontation at Peel Region council Thursday.