Letter to the Editor: Cornwall has unresponsive council, indifferent staff to development complaints

For over one year now I have been asking the City to consistently enforce clearly posted heavy vehicle restrictions on Grant Avenue and Riverdale Avenue. Numerous phone calls from myself and other residents of this area complaining about the constant truck traffic over the spring and summer and the attendant noise, dirt and shaking of foundations have been ignored.

I was advised by the Ontario Ombudsman to seek legal advice, which I did, and was told that I would have to either launch a class action suit or get a legal injunction to compel the City to address what started out as a fairly small issue. In a last attempt to make sense of the City’s unwillingness to deal with what appeared to be a fairly straight forward case of a local contractor ignoring a posted bylaw, I submitted a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) request to the City a few months ago.

I asked for some basic information pertaining to site inspection reports, completion schedules and road permits using language taken directly from the City’s Subdivision Manual, Section 1, General Subdivision Design (available on the city website) which, I assume, are basic protocols put in place to oversee property development within Cornwall i.e. the City’s own rules governing contractor activity. (Here, another little nugget I found when reading the Subdivision Manual dealing with Cornwall’s environmental policy. “Watercourses, Tree Preservation and Environmental Issues: Any design shall have regard for the existing topography, tree coverage and environmental conditions of the property. The Official Plan provides for the preservation of certain natural features including significant wetlands, tree stands, and natural watercourses. Natural watercourses are to be preserved wherever feasible. If the watercourse is required to be engineered, the facility should be designed to have natural restoration including tree planting. The existing tree coverage should be retained as much as possible.”)

Whoever is developing the land east of Power Dam Drive and contiguous with Tollgate Road apparently didn’t get the memo as this area now looks like the landscapes featured in post-apocalyptic movies. Adopting a “scorched-earth” policy may be financially beneficial to the developer(s) but total habitat destruction seems, at the least, shortsighted.

Four weeks later I received a letter indicating that “the records you are requesting do not exist”. That a large company which does a significant amount of business with the City is apparently exempt from following normal procedures for subdivision development came as a bit of a surprise.

Try erecting a garden shed or building a porch without the proper permits and you will probably receive a prompt visit from the City’s building department. If I am incorrect in my assumptions regarding a contractor, obligations to submit the proper paperwork before the actual completion of the project, then I stand to be corrected.

Unfortunately, the City appears to have “circled the wagons” as I have been unable to provoke any kind of response or explanation from City officials.

In light of this frustrating turn of events, I sent an email to all members of City Council and the CAO outlining the sequence of events over the last year. I explained in detail the nature of the phone calls and emails exchanged with City officials including my attempts to have the Ontario Ombudsman intervene and essentially embarrass the City into following its own rules. I was certain that my inclusion of the results of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request would elicit some kind of response as this as it seems to indicate a fundamental breakdown in the City’s obligation to perform due diligence at the most basic level. That was six weeks ago and the only response I have received to date is an acknowledgment by two councillors that my email had been received and that ‘they would look into it’.

If this is any indication of how the City functions then we have much bigger problems than our carbon footprint. An unresponsive City Council with little influence over an indifferent senior administration is probably not a good recipe for growth and progress. The lights are on at city hall but apparently nobody is home.

Larry Eamer