How did things get to the point where Brookswood residents are literally pleading to a handful of mostly out-of-town developers masquerading as the Griffith Neighbourhood Advisory Board (GNA)? I did a little research, and the deeper I dug, the more worms I found.
How can GNA spokesman Cameron Gair objectively look out for the best interest of the community when, an active licensed realtor, he is legally required to provide undivided loyalty to his clients?
Since he took his position with the GNA, Mr. Gair has sold multi-acre, multi-million-dollar properties, many of them on 32nd Avenue and 202nd Street, where the densities in the original Brookswood plan called for large, single-family lots with four units per acre, and now is being considered for increase to up to 22 units per acre.
But Mr. Gair and the GNA are only looking out for their self-interests. And we need to look out for our self-interests.
In 2011 the GNA asked for a start to the development planning process in Brookswood, to which the council and Township responded that they do not have enough funds to hire additional planning staff. So the GNA said it would pay for it.
That amounted to $500,000 split between 10 property owners â€“ a loan, really, as the money will be paid back to them through levies and taxes when development occurs.
The Township can raise taxes for many things, but not for something that has the potential to destruct a community and the people who have worked so hard to make it was it is.
The Township could have gone to the residents of 5,000 homes and asked them each to pay $100, to be refunded down the road. That would have kept this process objective, neutral, and free from outside influence.
Oh wait, they did not do that, because the residents had no idea in 2011 that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Township and the GNA â€“ it was done in relative secrecy, as no public notices were mailed out.
And frankly, the rest of the planning process has been atrocious. The final plan ended up with the most density, townhomes, and apartments, although the previous report from AECOM (planning consultant) indicated that 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, however I realize many people 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 move that we change this process: hand back the developers their $500,000 of yes-man money, restart this process so it is neutral, objective, and fair, and ask taxpayers if they would give this money to the Township under the same terms as the GNA, by which it would be paid back when development occurs.
Under these terms, the GNA 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, so someone please tell the mayor and council that.
James Macdonald, Brookswood