Peel council votes to bring in provincial facilitator to clean up Caledon’s development mess
Ongoing controversies over development are a roadblock to GTA growth plans, argue councillors in neighbouring Brampton and Mississauga.
June 25, 2015
By San Grewal
Peel Region council has taken the drastic measure of calling in the province to investigate planning problems in Caledon and recommend solutions about how growth is being managed and allegations of conflict of interest.
Two months of combative exchanges led to a walkout by Caledon councillors at a regional council meeting two weeks ago. Now, some members say Thursday’s 14-9 decision to ask for a provincial facilitator, led by councillors representing Brampton and Mississauga, could mark the end of Peel Region.
“I just don’t know what we’ve come to, when this is the type of culture we’ve created at the Region of Peel,” said Brampton Councillor Gael Miles. “Caledon councillors were elected to make the decisions for their municipality ... I would hate to think that Caledon and Mississauga would gang up on the City of Brampton.”
Tension filled the council chamber Thursday as Caledon councillors tried desperately to block the motion to bring in the provincial development facilitator being pushed by most of their regional colleagues.
Critics, including Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, have said Caledon is not following provincial growth policies.
Deciding to grow where there’s little existing infrastructure just creates more sprawl, is too expensive and can’t be defended in litigation, they argue. Even a member of Caledon’s own planning department publicly stated in 2012 that the town’s planning policies would be hard to defend.
Allegations that council members, including Mayor Allan Thompson, have tried to use their position for personal benefit have dogged town officials.
At council two weeks ago, Thompson was accused of a conflict over land he sold to a developer for $9.4 million. He denied the allegation.
Documents obtained by the Star, dated April 20, show Thompson sold property to developer Primont Homes Inc. for $9.4 million.
He later confirmed to the Star 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.
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.
Before Thursday's vote, Caledon councillors said it’s unacceptable to have their control of planning stripped by Peel’s other two cities. Caledon has five votes on regional council, Brampton seven and Mississauga 12, allowing Caledon to be easily overruled.
“It’s unfortunate, but we’ll see where we go from here,” Thompson told the Star after Thursday's vote.
“The issue at hand is Peel's Regional Official Plan,” Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey said in an email to the Star, explaining why she pushed for the move. “While it does involve Caledon and specifically Bolton, this issue has regional implications. Investment, jobs and housing crucial to the Region are being delayed.”