Okay, so this is it.
At 2 p.m. today, city council will meet for the second time in less than 24 hours to take yet another vote on a proposed and ugly redesign of the historic Chateau Laurier.
There’s much speculation that Mayor Jim Watson, having forced a down and dirty vote today will do everything he can to get a quick vote, without a rehashing of the issues.
Watson doesn’t like messy – and he doesn’t like losing. After city council voted on Wednesday to reconsider the Chateau Laurier decision, instead of holding the reconsideration vote at the end of next month as was expected – the mayor outmaneuvered Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans and College Coun. Rick Chiarelli by calling for a quick council meeting.
For those of us who care about this city, who love our nation’s capital – we can only hope this backfires on the mayor.
The vote to approve the present plans for the Chateau was 14-9. Orleans Coun. Stephen Blais was absent, and according to his Twitter account, is on holidays. College Coun. Rick Chiarelli voted in favour of the present plan, but only as a way to be able to move reconsideration, a technical process. He’s taking some heat for his vote, he shouldn’t be.
So to clarify some of the issues raised yesterday at the regularly scheduled council meeting.
Watson said it’s a privately-owned building and council can only do so much to force change. Wrong. Yes, it’s privately-owned, but council routinely forces change to privately owned establishments, notably heritage buildings.
Likewise, several councillors made it clear they don’t like the new design in front of them, but effectively threw up their hands saying it was time to move on from this issue because there’s really nothing they can do. Hogwash.
Some councillors said they didn’t want to drag council into a costly legal battle. Fair enough, I suppose, but this council and others before it often vote in favour of a development even though they know the project will be appealed at the Ontario Municipal Board and likely end up in court. And most everyone agrees if council confirms this project today, it will still almost certainly end up in the court system, with any number of people fighting it – and the city will have to defend their decision.
And can you think of any other issue where so many in the public, not just this city but across the country hate the design in front of us? This is an issue most feel passionately about. No one expects councillors to simply rubber stamp a project based solely on public feedback. Nor does the public expect their duly-elected councillors to turn their backs on what the majority of the public wants.
It’s not too late to fix this. Get it done, and get it done right.