Connaught

Connaught Update: Council Votes to Defer Decision

By Jason Leach
Published September 16, 2009

this blog entry has been updated

Hamilton City Council voted tonight to defer a decision on the Royal Connaught issue until later in September after a motion was introduced by Councillor Bratina, and passed by council.

Councillor Bratina stated that issues have come to his attention along with questions about the process and some legal issues that need to be dealt with in camera. He also stated that the public is in an uproar and these issues need to be dealt with.

Councillor Sam Merualla tried to have council debate this information publicly tonight instead of going in camera. His position was that this is a public process and any issues that have been discovered need to be relayed to the public.

Unfortunately, this did not take place.

Council voted 10-6 in favour of the deferral motion. I'm not certain whether that deferral will be in camera or whether the public will ever know what legal issues and questions have come up.

I suspect we'll find out over the next week or so as this application needs to be submitted to the province no later than September 30.

Update: Actually, it now sounds like they are about to change their minds and go in camera tonight and deal with the "issues" so they don't risk all six affordable housing projects. Apparently they can't just delay one, they have to delay all six. More to come shortly!

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2009 at 21:09:33

I caught the end of this discussion to defer all issues, and couldn't figure out exactly what was going on. Then the "in camera" stuff.

Thanks for the update and clarification... the decision remains.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 21:22:26

They better not rush into this. Thanks for the updates.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 21:34:06

If you ask me, when they go in-camera, it means they have secrets to discuss. Shouldn't it be open and transparent? After all it is the tax payers money!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 21:37:36

I have a very bad feeling about this. They will pass this and claim that their hands were tied because they didn't want to 'politicize' the RFP process (what the hell are they voting on it for then? Are they just a rubber stamp?), by cherry-picking a single proposal, and they couldn't risk losing the other proposals. So serious, long-term damage is done to the Connaught, and our downtown, because of a technicality and lack of political will.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 21:45:39

The people should organize a rally right down in Gore Park, tell the people like it is.

It is so hard to accept that many in our community who struggle are cut off the system, sometimes because paperwork is lost or misplaced at the 'government" office. People are thrown into a stressful tailspin, yet here we have these guys getting away with not even paying heir taxes, what a injustice.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 22:26:01

I have to say kudos to the spec for bringing the unpaid taxes to light. That sure cleared up the back taxes quickly didn't it? They shamed them into action.

Maybe we should start naming other properties and landlords who have not paid taxes, or who have taken advantage of city programs in other ways. I can think of more than a few...

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 07:25:54

Well, that sucks... http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/articl...

HOW THEY VOTED:

In favour of the project: Eisenberger, Collins, Duvall, Jackson, McCarthy, McHattie, Merulla, Morelli, Pearson, Powers, Whitehead

Opposed: Clark, Ferguson, Pasuta, Mitchell

Absent: Bratina

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 07:30:11

And of course Merulla sums it up best, by accident:

Councillor Sam Merulla said he's shocked that some of his colleagues are trying to interfere in the city's RFP [request for proposal] process."This was a bureaucratic decision with no political interference until now."

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2009 at 07:53:20

unbelieveable

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By disappointed (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 08:19:35

I am so disappointed in how the city council voted last night. Yet another very poor decision. I feel like moving back to Toronto.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 09:45:16

heck, I'll downvote you too then. Not very often I get to do that. Lol.

The backroom dealing continues in this city. Serious legal issues are raised and the public never gets to know about them. Great. It's high time the rest of us start skipping our taxes for 3 years and see how quickly we can land $18 million in taxpayer money.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:28:37

I wouldn't be surprised at all if some councillors and / or staff are paid off. How else would you explain such support for something so wrong on all levels? Nobody benefits here except the owners.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:31:59

I am moving to Burlington.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:49:03

Capitalist,

It may be one of the dullest places in the world, but at least one doesn't get gut-twisting feelings of depression and woe when walking down Brant Street ...

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:52:40

... well, maybe some people do, come to think of it.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:14:59

Tammany.

I agree with you.

As a lifelong resident and huge Hamilton booster I am extremely dissapointed by council's decision. They completely caved into special interests and approved something that is extremely detrimental to the dtown (and using our own tax dollars to finance it!)

I have lost faith in this city and am embarrased to be associated with it.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:31:38

Despair is not an unnatural response to a situation like this, but I'd much rather we try to do something to change the culture of corruption, apathy, and obfuscation.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 13:07:28

Capitalist wrote:

It may be one of the dullest places in the world, but at least one doesn't get gut-twisting feelings of depression and woe when walking down Brant Street ...

No, the gut-twisting feelings of depression and woe come from reading all the whining and griping about their little problems in Joan Little's columns and the Bay Observer. :P

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 13:25:03

Jason >> It's high time the rest of us start skipping our taxes for 3 years and see how quickly we can land $18 million in taxpayer money.

Point 1. Hamilton wants more private sector investment.

Point 2. Hamilton charges the highest taxes on investment in the GTA.

Point 3. Hamilton has to compete with other cities for real estate investment dollars.

I wonder how we can convince people to invest here in Hamilton? I've got it, keep investment tax rates high and hope that people won't notice they are getting ripped off.



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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 13:33:32

Tax rates only matter to people who plan to pay their taxes. In case you haven't noticed, this doesn't apply to Hamilton 'investors'.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 14:42:20

highwater, you make me howl almost as much as Reg.

re: Burlington's little problems from Joan Little and the Bay Observer.

SO TRUE! Do any of them think we care about whether a turning lane is installed on Plains or about the extra 10 seconds that a left turn signal is being left on for??

It's like the only piece of news they have over there is their friggin pier falling into the lake all the time. haha. media must hate the lack of action.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 16:07:05

Highwater >> Tax rates only matter to people who plan to pay their taxes.

I agree that it's not right to reward people who can't pay their obligations, but it's much easier to pay taxes when you have tenants. The reason there are no tenants, is because our politicians have forgot that people work on incentives. Keep investment tax rates high and people will invest elsewhere, that's just the reality.

On that point, if the citizens of Hamilton want our politicians to turn this city into the best community in Canada, what do we offer them in return? Where is their incentive to do a great job?

I have mentioned this previously, but what would be wrong with linking their compensation to a metric that reflects how the overall city is doing. For example, if average property values in the city grew faster than the provincial average, they would get a bonus linked to that.

In this way, our elected officials would benefit proportionately to the gains they produced for homeowners. Furthermore, if we know that money will always influence political decisions, why not leverage that fact to our advantage, rather than pretend politicians are immune from acting in their own self interest.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 16:11:19

Just wondering: Collins said he would vote against but voted in favour; Bratina abstained. What is that all about? Was he too afraid to vote his conscience? Eisenberger? Where is his voice in all this? We know where his vote was. With the developers! Merulla? Are we truly to believe the process was without politics? Is this Hamilton? Marrini? His role is suspect. Barkwell: There was a list to choose from or was there not? Why would a lawyer have to advise the group? In Camera meeting to discuss what exactly? I thought you cant just decide to go in camera? And now just a kilometer or so away the Good shepard is building another building for the poor and destitute. If the mountain has the 'golden mile', downtown has the downtrodden mile, sad to say.

Just some questions.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 16:17:50


Hamilton is a city for the poor, not the middle class. Just look at our residential tax rates.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 16:18:23

I think the decision to hold an in camera session was suspect too.

See my recent post in Ryan's "Vancouver Establishes Open Data Catalogue" for further detail.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 18:26:21

Curious, unfortunately there is a lot that goes on in this city that we can't speak up about. Councillors are no different at times. I know we all wish that some would be public whisteblowers but they need to weigh the consequences just like you or I.

There's a reason that a major news story broke in every national news outlet about Hamilton a couple of years ago and not a single peep was mentioned in our local media. Including us at RTH. We discussed it, and decided against it for the same reasons all of council and the mainstream media wouldn't touch the issue. It's a sad, but true commentary on who runs this town.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 18:58:27

Are you implying there was physical intimidation?

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 18:58:56

Hmmm ... pretty cryptic.

Are you implying there was physical intimidation?

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By Sucker (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2009 at 23:40:42

FUck, and I just paid my tax bill

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 07:20:05

My god...the hits just keep on coming from this story.

"Connaught Developer Suing City" http://thespec.com/News/Local/article/63...

"A developer who wants taxpayer cash to turn the Royal Connaught into affordable housing is suing the city for $9 million over a proposed land deal that went sour six years ago."

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 08:16:53

I was just reading that. Amazing. I guess that answers why they had the in camera session. I did like this....

"My question becomes, how do we rate the request for proposal (submission) as the highest when we find there (were) taxes owing and a lawsuit?" Bratina said yesterday.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 08:24:48

yup. great operation. I can just hear the conversation playing out:

"A developer is suing us and hasn't paid taxes in 3 years. What should we do?" "I know! Let's make his affordable housing project number 1 on our list so that he can get $18 million in taxpayer funding! That'll teach him!!"

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By Vranchoir (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 08:29:41

@JonC/Urbanetc.

Don't get sidetracked.

As interesting/awful as the corollary stories are, the point remains that this iconic building is NOT the right site for affordable housing. If the discussion becomes how 'evil' the proponents are, you will be accused of not liking the project because of who is proposing it, rather than the merits. On the merits alone, the proposal fails all kinds of tests, regarless of who is backing it!
The sidebar issues just make everyone look bad as Dreshel said. The columnist, however, nicely avoided blaming himself and his paper for editorially backing a flawed project. The rest of the world may not pay lots of attnetion to editorial writings but rest assured the politicians do.
Today's letters to the editor are a truer reflection of public feeling on this issue, as readers to this site already knew.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 08:39:14

Don't worry, my main objection is $18,000,0000

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 09:35:36

"I guess that answers why they had the in camera session. "

Yeah, it's an excuse, but not a very good one in my view. The fact that a lawsuit is associated with one of the developers involved in the deal is not, in my view, sufficient to justify closing all discussions around the proposal generally.

Section 239(2)(e) Municipal Act provides that a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board. To read this is as meaning that a council can close its meetings simply because litigation is in some way being considered would be naively or opportunistically expansive. The subsection is clearly intended to protect what is called "litigation privilege." Thus, if council were taking legal advice or contemplating strategy in relation to a pending or anticipated lawsuit, then fine, they should be able to have an in camera session. But the second that discussion is over the doors should be reopened.

Further, the SCC's decision in Blank v. Canada clearly indicates that such provisions should be read down to reflect the fact that "unlike the solicitor-client privilege, [litigation privilege] is neither absolute in scope nor permanent in duration."

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By IANAL (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 11:29:37

^Er, what Tammany said.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:41:36

Vranchoir wrote:

Don't get sidetracked.

As interesting/awful as the corollary stories are, the point remains that this iconic building is NOT the right site for affordable housing. If the discussion becomes how 'evil' the proponents are, you will be accused of not liking the project because of who is proposing it, rather than the merits.

I beg to differ. I was at the council meeting and Joanne Priel was asked what the criteria were for assessing the proposals, and one of the criteria was the reputation and track record of the developers behind each proposal, so it is absolutely a factor in deciding the merits of the proposal. In fact, I would argue that this proposal should be fought based mainly on the behaviour of the developers in question. New facts about the developers have become public since the city's priority list was set that call the whole RFP process into question. I think this should be fought based on the discredited process. If we argue about the merits of affordable housing, it's too easy to be labelled anti-poor.

I'm not letting council off the hook, but staff bear the brunt of the blame for this. They were fully aware of the tax arrears and the Valeri law suit when they approved this proposal, yet they chose to keep that info from council. They are the ones who politicized this when they made that choice, AFAIC. Council shouldn't have been so afraid to undo the damage.

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2009 at 12:25:18

A "Design-Centric" Approach to Community Building for Density Creation in our Downtown:

1) Urban renewal is probably the single policy most responsible for creating what has become the developed world's most entrenched permanent underclass, with concentrated poverty leading to neglible opportunities, broken families, drug abuse and crime....

More recent theories about how to provide affordable and low-income housing focus on designs which help to heal communities.

On it's Affordable Housing Design Advisor site (below), one can find ...links to model projects and possibilities, and other resources. It's not the cutting edge of affordability design. It is, however, a fine survey of contemporary thinking on how to build housing that matters for people without much money.
>>> www.worldchanging.com/archives/000034.html


2) "An affordable housing project can be resisted by the community every step of the way, or welcomed. It can be a problem that gets progressively worse, or an asset for its neighborhood for decades. It can be a constant source of discomfort and resentment for everyone who lives in and around it. Or it can provide the people who live there with everything we all expect from our home: comfort, security, an atmosphere to thrive and do our best in. ----More than anything else, the difference is design.----

The Affordable Housing Design Advisor brings together experience and ideas from successful affordable housing projects all over the country, and the people who developed, designed and built them."---

www.designadvisor.org/

-- "The conventional wisdom in the U.S. that high-density, high-rise affordable family housing is certain to have a negative effect on both residents and neighborhoods is not always correct.

Two developments that encourage this revision are located adjacent to one another at 201 Turk Street and 111 Jones Street in San Francisco. At 225 dwelling units per acre these two nine-story buildings have a very high density, yet they do not appear out of scale in the dense inner city Tenderloin District."

According to Arthur Evans, president of the company that entered a joint-venture with Chinese Community Housing to build 201 Turk, "People are amazed by this development. The federal housing administration sent their architects over to learn from it. The police and the neighbors say that this development has done more to reduce crime and raise property values than anything tried in the last ten years."--

--www.designadvisor.org/gallery/turk.html

www.designadvisor.org/tools/comparative_index.html
www.designadvisor.org/green/trolley_square.htm
www.designadvisor.org/green/Pantages.htm
www.designadvisor.org/green/waterfront.htm
www.designadvisor.org/green/gold_dust.htm
www.designadvisor.org/green/artists.htm

---

It is a "swell" approach, worth a spin!

What the hell, it's a quite weekend, take it out for a drive! We really have nothing to loose - as we will always have our time-tested approach of kicking, jabbing, poking, sniggering, yawning, accusing, protesting sandbagging, and windbagging to fall back on come Monday ;-)

(More on demystifying Icons, later today.)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 19, 2009 at 13:28:52

Mahesh, you really should submit an article. You put alot of thought into your comments and they'd get alot more attention as an article.

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2009 at 16:21:02

You think so? But first, you will have to put in a good word with the publisher :-) Besides, Reg now knows where I live - could get dangerous for me, you know ;-)

(BTW... in the above comment, only the last six lines are mine...the rest are from the sites referred).

Here is a quick thought, while I do some writing -- How about you, Bill Curran, President of the Local Architect's Society, and Tony Battaglia, Harry, Dave, Jason and Reg - organize a collaborative Design Charrette next week - (in Gore Park and the lobby of the Connaught); along with all representative groups in our community including bankers and investors to: generate a unique made-in-Hamilton community solution to address the design challenges we face in bringing more people to the core?

The restaurants in the core would gladly sponsor some spicy snacks and hot-dogs. The weather is still great, and we can all have a party of our lives to celebrate the second phase of revitalization of our city centre. Besides wouldn't it be fun to watch the jaws of the guys from Toronto drop in shock?

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