Brookswood residents deserve an equal say in community's future
Editor: After attending the public hearing meetings, I wondered how things got to the point where members of the Brookswood community was literally begging and pleading to a handful of mostly out-of-town developers, masquerading as the Griffith Neighbourhood Advisory Corporation (GNAC). So I did a little research, and the deeper I would dig, the more worms I found.
The spokesman for the GNAC is Cameron Gair, an active licensed realtor. I do not understand how council could not see this as a conflict of interest for Gair, his clients, and the community. How can he objectively look out for the best interest of the entire community, when by law he is required to provide undivided loyalty to his clients?
According to my research, since 2010 he has sold several multi-million dollar properties in the area. Some of them were on 32 Avenue and 202 Street, where the densities in the original Brookswood plan were large single family lots with four units per acre, and now have been increased to up to 22 units per acre.
I do not blame Gair or the GNAC, they are looking out for their own self interests. As a community we too, need to look out for our self interests and ask how the heck did this come about?
In 2011, the GNAC approached council, asking it to begin development planning process in Brookswood, to which the council and Township responded that there was not enough funds to hire additional planning staff. So the GNAC said it would pay for it, in the amount of $500,000, split between 10 property owners. This $500,000 in reality is a loan, as it is stated when development occurs, this money will be paid back to those developers through levies and taxes.
The Township can raise taxes for many nondescript issues, but not for one that has the potential to destroy a community and the very people who have worked so hard to make it what it is. Maybe I should say what it was.
Maybe the Township could have went gone back to the residents of 5,000 homes and asked them to pay an additional $100 each on their property tax, which would be eventually refunded down the road. That would have kept this process objective, neutral, and free from outside influence, the way every other community does its planning process.
The Township did not do so, because the residents had no idea what was happening in 2011, when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Township and GNAC. It was done in relative secrecy as no public notices were mailed out or put in any newspapers. And frankly, the rest of the planning process has been atrocious.
The final plan ended up with the most density, townhomes and apartments, when in the planning consultants own previous reports, the majority of the public either wanted less density or just single family lots.
Personally, I am in favour of single family development that maintains the existing character of the neighbourhood. Others have differing opinions and I respect that their voices should be heard too. As many of the developers said at the public hearing, change is inevitable, and I suggest that we change this process.
Hand back the developers their $500,000 and restart this process so it is neutral, objective and fair. Ask taxpayers if they would give this money to the Township under the same terms, to be paid back when development occurs.
Under these terms the GNAC can still provide input, but as regular citizens and property owners, just like the rest of us. In a democracy, I still believe it is one vote per person.