CAMPP says Decision on Mega-Hospital Raises Many New Issues
CAMPP Windsor Essex Residents Association – A decision released today by the Ontario Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“LPAT”) regarding an appeal by CAMPP (a Windsor-wide citizens’ coalition) appears to raise as many questions as it answers, according to CAMPP.
The decision confirms one of the key aspects of CAMPP’s appeal, that in the words of the Tribunal “CAMPP supports a new hospital but opposes it on the proposed site at the periphery of the City in favour of a more central location.” The decision also brings into operation for the first time in the planning process, again in the words of the Tribunal “virtually every section of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014”, making the appeal even more wide-ranging than the parties themselves had argued. In addition, the Tribunal has recognized the evidence of all of the experts called by the parties, including Jennifer Keesmaat, an internationally recognized land use planner retained by CAMPP following her term as the Chief Planner for Canada’s largest city.
At the same time, the Tribunal finds that it is not necessary for all of the planning in this case to conform with Windsor’s own Official Plan. This appears to contradict the primary planning document in Ontario, the Provincial Policy Statement.
The decision also attempts to address the issue of community consultation, particularly with First Nations. The Tribunal expressly finds “coordination and consultation connote discussion which implies a two-way conversation.” However, the Tribunal also finds no evidence that discussion took place and states “in hindsight, more could have been done to consult local Indigenous communities.” This appears to contradict the Tribunal’s conclusion that sufficient consultation ever occured.
The Tribunal goes on to find that need for further development, while away from the current center of Windsor, is justified based on two needs studies commissioned by the City, which conflicted with each other. Further, CAMPP’s primary submission, that this conflict cannot be resolved without further input, is not addressed in the Tribunal’s ruling, which in the past has led to decisions being overturned and sent back for further review.
The decision also recognizes that Windsor’s Official Plan encourages emergency services in close proximity to where people live. However, the evidence before the Tribunal, that the proposed location is 13-18 from where the majority of Windsor’s most vulnerable residents reside, also appears to contradict the appeal’s conclusions.
The Tribunal goes on to find that the area for the new proposed development will be “accessible by walking, cycling and transit”, when the evidence was the proposed area will have no walking and cycling options for the majority of the community now or in the future. In fact, the Tribunal goes on to state “ideally, large services and facilities might be located in the center of an urban area. A downtown, university, hospital or manufacturing facility, all located at the geographic center, would minimize the total travel distance of all residents to those facilities.” Again, the decision appears to contradict the Tribunal’s primary conclusions.
Elsewhere, the Tribunal finds that infrastructure costs are acceptable. However, this finding was supported by evidence provided by the City that was never tested through cross-examination etc., leaving many observers questioning the validity of conclusions based on untested evidence.
Finally, while recognizing that “the loss of farmland in Ontario underpins the PPS and other provincial policies that fervently protect agricultural land, especially prime land, unless fully justified for other uses” the decision permits this to occur, again on untested evidence.
“What is clear from this decision” said Philippa von Ziegenweidt on behalf of CAMPP “is that CAMPP’s major issues were all recognized by the Tribunal as ones that required an analysis and determination.” “However, the Tribunal’s decision raises a number of questions of law that will likely need to be visited again through the LPAT’s own review process or the courts” said Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for CAMPP.