Businessman intends to take legal action to stop LRT

Waterloo Regional council has approved the next step in making the ION light rail transit project a reality, but one local businessman says he intends to take legal action to stop it.

Waterloo Regional council has approved the next step in making the ION light rail transit project a reality, but one local businessman says he intends to take legal action to stop it. 

The planning and works committee of regional council approved Grandlinq's bid to build stage 1 of the LRT for $532 million at council on Tuesday in a 10-4 vote.  

At the meeting, Regional Chair Ken Seiling was delivered a notice that businessman Jay Aissa intends to start legal proceedings against the region with the aim of stopping the LRT.  

"I'm not against LRT, I'm against the route LRT is taking and going and hurting all these businesses along the route and that's my problem with it," Aissa said in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition on Wednesday.

A letter written by Aissa's lawyer, William Friedman, states the project violates section 24 of the Ontario Planning Act, which prohibits public works that do not conform to a municipality's official plan. The official plan lays out the framework that governs the municipality's growth.

Friedman's letter contends that the latest version of the region's official plan, approved by the province with amendments in 2010, is currently being appealed at the Ontario Municipal Board. In order to be in compliance with section 24, the region would require further amendments to the previous version of the plan, Friedman argues.  Pushing ahead with plans to build and operate the LRT don't "conform to the existing policy framework," he wrote.

Regional Chair says council is 'on solid ground'

However, the chair of regional council says they've already accounted for the section 24 requirement years ago.

Seiling said the region amended its official plan in 2007 to account for the LRT.

"And I believe that this is quite consistent with the regional plan," he said.

"We think we're on solid ground." 

The region's official plan was appealed by a group of developers, who said the region was not opening up enough land for development over the next 20 years. The Ontario Municipal Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal that adjudicates land use planning disputes in the province, ruled in favour of the developers last year.

The region and the province have since moved to appeal the OMB's ruling at divisional court. There has not yet been a resolution to that process. 

Aissa won't reveal other involved parties

Aissa said he is concerned about the cost of the project.

"I feel sorry for all these businesses on that King Street," said Aissa, citing the effects of construction.

Aissa said he hasn't talked with Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig or Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran, both opponents of the LRT project who voted against the Grandlinq contract on Monday night. 

"I started [the] website when I was trying to get a hold of the council, trying to talk to them," he said of 

On the website, the 'About Us' section describes Stop Light Rail as "a diverse group of citizens and business owners from across the region."

When reached by phone after his interview, Aissa wouldn't name any other businesses involved in his action. He referred CBC News to his website for names, though no businesses are listed on the site, just an online petition that has garnered just over 2,400 names. 

Calls to Aissa's lawyer were not returned.


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