Salvation Army opponents target city report in OMB appeal
Appeal filed Tuesday, says Michael Polowin, lawyer representing shelter opponents
Five business owners opposed to the Salvation Army's proposed 350-bed facility on Montreal Road have filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board in an effort to overturn council's approval of the project.
The appeal is being supported by SOS Vanier, the organization that rallied opponents of the proposal over the summer.
Planning lawyer Michael Polowin is representing those opponents and also spoke on behalf of some businesses as the project made its way through city hall.
"It's not going to be easy. It will undoubtedly raise emotions. The Salvation Army does good work; no one should attack that. This is not about that," Polowin told CBC News Tuesday. "This should be dealt with like any other developer."
The appeal's target is the city report that recommended council approve the rezoning of 333 Montreal Rd. for a multipurpose 350-bed facility, with 140 spaces reserved for emergency use — and especially the definition of a shelter.
"There are evident flaws in the city's report, in the staff report. Those flaws will be exposed on cross examination," Polowin said.
Number of shelters at issue
According to Polowin the appeal covers wide ground, including that the proposal doesn't line up with provincial policies or the city's policy on shelters, and that it contradicts a 2008 staff report recommending capping the number of shelters in Rideau–Vanier at four.
"The city report says there are four shelters. When we show there are at least 12, city staff are going to look a little foolish," he said.
"City staff are using a very strange approach to defining what a shelter is that is completely outside of the existing zoning bylaw to say the other eight are not shelters. They very clearly are."
Rideau–Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury also took issue with how staff counted the number of shelters in his ward and raised concerns when he saw a draft of the report.
Its official. The decision to approve the changes requested in the Salvation Army development application for 333 Montreal Road has been appealed to the OMB by several local businesses with support from the community. <a href="https://twitter.com/SOSVanier?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SOSVanier</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottcity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottcity</a>—@dobsondrew
In a statement, Salvation Army spokesperson Glenn van Gulik said the organization remains committed to the development of 333 Montreal Rd.
"We also recognize that there is still much work to do in order to build stronger relationships with the community and with the city," the statement said.
"During the OMB appeal process, we will remain open to dialogue with community stakeholders and will also continue our existing work as we daily meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community."
Polowin said the city's legal team made a mistake when Mayor Jim Watson and the chair of the planning committee, Coun. Jan Harder, limited the debate to a land use issue instead of considering the social impact of the facility.
OMB historically defers to city staff
Former planning committee chair Peter Hume said that, based on reviewing the Ontario Municipal Board's history dealing with planning decisions, the appeal may face an uphill battle.
"The board gives strong deference to the position of city staff when they're looking at the totality of the evidence before them," Hume said.
Ottawa city planners will be part of presenting the evidence supporting council's decision in favour of the Salvation Army proposal.
"It's going to be a hard row to hoe. However, you have a fairly seasoned litigator [Polowin] on the other side who's been to the board a number of times."
Hume said it's too early to judge the strength of the appeal, which could take nearly two years to wind its way through the quasi-judicial process.
"If OMB hearings can be barn-burners, you could have a real barn-burner of a hearing," he said.