Kingston’s mayor says it was an “inadvertent” mistake that five councillors showed up to a recent community meeting where the hotly-debated Glenburnie inn and spa project was discussed.
“I did have a chance to speak with the councillors involved. I certainly believe it was inadvertent,” says Mayor Bryan Paterson.
Four of the five councillors happen to sit on the city’s planning committee, which will ultimately be asked to vote on the contentious project, giving rise to complaints that their attendance before a group that strongly opposes the project was inappropriate.
Glenburnie resident and former city councillor Jeff Scott has voiced complaints about the matter.
“When I was on council, we were told in no uncertain terms by the clerk that we were not to meet in a quorum. If we met in a quorum, a majority of committee or council, we were essentially holding an illegal committee meeting,” Scott said.
Scott also believes the councillors may have left the meeting with a biased opinion of the development.
“Councillors and committee members shouldn’t be going to meetings to hear one side and one point of view, especially when they’re going to be meeting with these people and everybody else in a full public forum where they can hear all sides.”
The five councillors who attended a May 22 meeting of the Glenburnie Residents’ Association are Lisa Osanic, Robert Kiley, Simon Chapelle, Wayne Hill and Gary Oosterhof, according to association minutes from the meeting. All but Coun. Oosterhof sit on the six member planning committee.
The Glenburnie association meeting came about two weeks before the planning committee held an official public meeting on the project.
Mayor Paterson says while he has spoken with the councillors about the political perception of their attendance, he believes it won’t happen again.
“We talked about the perception. It was agreed it was inadvertent. We just learn from it and move forward. It was a concern that was raised and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”
It remains unclear whether Kingston’s own integrity commissioner will be called in to investigate councillor attendance at the Glenburnie meeting.
However, the mayor suggested some of the councillors involved could contact the integrity commissioner to seek an opinion of their actions.
“Ultimately that’s something the Integrity commissioner is there for, to provide that advice. I imagine conversations have already taken place.”
David Pentney, chair of the Glenburnie Residents’ Association, says their meeting was a public forum and he welcomed the attendance of the councillors.
“Did they hear some of our concerns? Absolutely. Did they participate in that discussion? No. But they did provide guidance on how the planning committee public meeting process works.”
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Coun. Chapelle, one of the five who appeared at the Glenburnie gathering last month, says he had no idea that three of his colleagues on the planning committee would also show up at the same time.
“From my perspective it was certainly happenstance.”
Chappelle says he went to gather more information about the controversial development, which has been the focus of neighbourhood complaints since it was first unveiled last year.
Some residents have complained the 13.7 hectare inn and spa development on the northwest corner of Battersea and Unity roads will have an impact on rural wells and lead to a water shortage in the area.
The development includes a 27-suite boutique inn, a spa, a gift shop, a restaurant, a corporate event venue and 40 rental cabins.
BPE Developments, the company behind the development, says those concerns have been addressed.
At a June 6 public meeting, hosted by the planning committee, company owner Ben Pilon explained the project has already drilled new casement wells that are sealed far below existing wells and will not draw water from nearby aquifers.
Pilon says the property will also have a waste water treatment plant to recycle most of the water the spa uses.
“The cisterns water the gardens around the house. And the holding tanks do the laundry and the toilets. And after that it goes back up to the water treatment and it is cycled back up.”
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Mayor Paterson says he believes the proposed relaxation centre will be a great addition to the community, but adds there is still a lot of work to do at the staff level before a final political decision is made.
The project requires a rezoning from agricultural to commercial. The company began preliminary site work began last year.
A staff recommendation to the planning committee hasn’t been made yet.
—With files from Julie Brown.