Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reading for comprehension

First off, I Am Not a Lawyer. I do, however, practice reading for comprehension.

For those of you wondering about a certain Waterloo businessman's threat of legal challenge against LRT, based on the claim that it violates the region's current official plan, I offer you this:

11.2.3 The Regional Municipality of Waterloo, in conjunction with Area Municipalities as appropriate, will promote increased transit ridership, walking and cycling and reduce the need to make trips by automobile through such means as:

a) the provision of rapid transit service within the Central Transit Corridor with linkages to other transit corridors and nodes;


That's from "Amendment No. 26 - Introduction of New Transit and Rapid Transit Policies and Mapping" to the Regional Official Policies Plan. This is the plan in effect right now, as the new regional official plan (which also provides for rapid transit) is in legal limbo due to the appeal of an OMB challenge. The amendment was approved and adopted in 2007.

The claim against the region is that this rapid transit project violates Section 24 of the Ontario Planning Act which basically says all public works must conform with the official plan. The claim seems built on the fact that the new 2009 plan provides for rapid transit but it's not in effect, along with an impression that the old plan does not provide for rapid transit.

So what's the deal? Is there something else up this person's sleeve? Hard to rule out the possibility that sufficiently motivated lawyers may dredge up some loophole, but at the same time it beggars belief that a public project could be so easily tied up by a single disgruntled citizen with lawyers in tow. Especially a public project like this, more than a decade in the making.

What's worse, this person can still attempt to pursue this case, and our tax money will be spent defending it.

Well, the regional government is acting like there's nothing to be concerned about. I hope they're right. We've waited too long for this.

Edit: this CBC article includes a legal letter that states,

"The ROPPA 26 rapid transit policies currently in effect contemplates a further official plan amendment. Accordingly, entering into a contract which commits the Region to the construction and operation of the LRT does not conform to the existing policy framework."
So they're claiming that this part of the plan can't be pursued without the contemplated amendments, and the new plan is not in effect. I took a look. Amendment 26 says:
"This amendment will be implemented through the future approval of further amendments to this plan, amendments to the affected area municipal official plans and the approvals process for development applications in areas where application of the new and/or revised policies is appropriate.(emphasis mine)
Does that mean we need more amendments before rapid transit is enshrined in the official plan? The lawyers writing that letter seem to think so. But arguments about Oxford Commas aside, there's a lot of wiggle room in the bolded text above.

I'm sure lawyers will be getting a workout.

Edit again: Waterloo Chronicle has a statement from Chair Seiling regarding the region's opinion.

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