City of Brantford council voted against an amendment that would see a request for a zoning freeze through the Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO) regarding 58 Morrell St. during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 25, 2023.
On October 17, Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis made an amendment to a resolution passed during the September 27 city council meeting, to officially request that Paul Calandra, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, assign a facilitator to mediate discussions between all parties involved in the appeal of the 58 Morrell St. property.
Councillor Dan McCreary originally intended to make an amendment to the resolution during last week’s Special Committee of the Whole meeting. The amendment called for intervention by Calandra to freeze the zoning.
“The Minister can, with a stroke of the pen, unilaterally implement a MZO which could freeze the zoning on this property,” said McCreary on October 17.
However, after much discussion and a word of caution from the Mayor, the amendment was squashed.
“We have to be very strategic and smart about how we use the levers we have available to us. The province can say no to an MZO. It’s certainly a strategy, it is something we should use at the appropriate time and after we’ve had the legal advice from the lawyer we are requesting,” said Davis. “It is probably something the province would be inclined to do this if they have seen the full negotiation settlement process exhausted. If we are asking on one hand to do the facilitation and then on the other hand asking the Minister to lay down the hammer, what do you think is going to happen? If we do that tonight, if we ask for both, you might as well say goodbye to SC Johnson. If we want to cooperation from the province, we need to do it very strategically and use that [the MZO] when it’s the best and appropriate time to use it.”
During the City Council meeting on October 25, McCreary once again tried to make the amendment in order to bypass further discussion about the topic at a later date by giving the Mayor the authority to make a request for an MZO at his discretion.
“The MZO is a tool of course, that’s in the toolbox to resolve this issue. It may not be appropriate at this time but I would like to introduce it tonight so that the public and those involved in this process realize that there is a “hail Mary” or last ditch attempt that we can have at this issue and do our best to ensure that the company remains here,” said McCreary. “Even if it’s not supported tonight, I think it makes it clear to this community the lengths to which we will go if necessary to ensure that we retain SC Johnson.”
Many councillors initially expressed their support of making the amend.
“It’s an opportunity of last resort. I think first, we have to go through the mediation process and hopefully we have some success there, but if that fails you won’t have to come back to this council for approval to take this a step further,” said Sless. “You would already have that approval but I think we’re still a little ways away from that and hopefully discussion can solve the problem.”
Councillor Greg Martin agreed with Sless.
“Because this would be at the discretion of the Mayor, it’s something that could be triggered later without the need for council,” he said. “Hopefully it never comes to that, hopefully it’s something you never need to use but if negotiations breakdown and it becomes obvious that you’re not going to get anywhere through the negotiations channels, you at least have this ready to go if it’s needed.”
However, Councillor Michael Sullivan said that he wouldn’t be supporting the amendment.
“I don’t think we should be documenting the MZO when we’re going to be going into negotiations and doing this in good faith,” he said. “I think this is something we should bring before council at a later date.”
Councillor Linda Hunt also made a similar statement to Sullivan.
“I’m concerned with going into mediation with good faith when all parties then knowing that the hammer is already there to be pulled should mediation not go the way one party wants it to or not, for that reason I would not support the amendment,” she said.
Davis said that the two councillors “hit the nail right on the head.”
“Moving into facilitation/mediation, demonstrations of good faith are absolutely essential for the success of the mediation process. If somebody goes in there saying ‘well I got this in my back pocket so you better do what I want you to do or I’m going to pull this out and use it,’ it just sets the wrong tone for the negotiations,” he said. “Plus we don’t have the facilitation from the Minister yet, and if we send this to him… what’s his reaction going to be? I suspect it’s going to be ‘there not doing this in good faith, they don’t really want to go through the facilitation.’”
He also noted that it’s not recommend that the MZO be asked for by just the Mayor, but by an entire council resolution and he urged the councillors to defeat the amendment.
The amendment was then defeated by a vote of 9-2 with McCreary and councillor Greg Martin voting in favour of the amendment.