Readers update residents of Miramichi Shores on development

To the Editor:

To the residents of Miramichi Shores Phases 1-3 (and to other residents of Saugeen Shores) –

This letter has been written to provide you with information as to what has been occurring in our neighbourhood. It would certainly appear that any official notice to the residents of Phases 1-3 from the Town or the County is not coming forthwith. In lieu of that, we are providing you with whatever information we can at this time.

First and foremost, we want to apologize to you. If you had desperately hoped that we could “bring home the win” (further explanation will follow), then we are very sorry to advise you that we could not but not because we didn’t try.

We have contested requests for further development in our subdivision since 2008 with fervor, high expectations, determination, motivation, passion, and so on. Extensive time and effort went into our research, our presentation, our letters and reports to the Town/County in addition to letters to the editor.

As a reminder to us alone, we now have an overflowing Banker’s Box containing documents, some of which we already had on file, plus newer documents that arose as a result of Subdivision Application #S-2021-006. In addition to printed material, there are copious documents which we downloaded instead of printing them. It is unfortunate that we had to use so much paper, without having proof (especially from old records), arguments and challenges may not withstand scrutiny without them. We will be saving all of this documentation going forward – just in case something else should transpire.

Updates from the Town/County:

With respect to our comment about the Town or County not providing an update to you, rest assured there was a concerted effort on our part to resolve that too. Specifically, we contacted the Town to get a copy of their checklist (or flowchart) that they use during the process for subdivision applications. We were in search of a document that would indicate every stage/step of a subdivision process and in what order those steps/stages occurred. Obviously, we were most interested in the document specifically assigned to Application #S-2021-006, which would provide anyone with an up-to-date list of what had been completed thus far and what still needed to be done. You may, or may not, be surprised to know that the Town of Saugeen Shores does NOT have such a document. Since the Town did not have a process in place, we also contacted someone at the County level for the same checklist (or flowchart). [Hopefully, you didn’t already guess what we are about to tell you.] The County does NOT have a checklist or flowchart either!

In other words, at no time could a resident of Saugeen Shores be able to contact the Town (or anyone acting on their behalf) to find out exactly: what had been done, what still had to be done, what percentage of the project was complete, etc. Perhaps that is why they failed to advise all residents of Miramichi Shores Phase 1-3 of what was going on because they themselves did not appear to know. Yet on the other hand, if you are a sports fan and love baseball for example, at any time you always know who is on 1st base, who just stole 2nd base, and who is rounding 3rd and heading to home plate. But on the local governmental side of subdivision planning, NO ONE here appears to have any idea of what has been done and what still needs to be done … or in which order the tasks need to be addressed. Good grief. The more we think about the local process, the more it sounds like an old “Abbott and Costello” routine!

Since we suspected that other communities were likely more proactive, engaged and organized in this regard, we did further research to determine if any other communities had a checklist or flowchart. Guess what? They indeed have been developed and are implemented elsewhere. So, to the Town of Saugeen Shores, the wheel doesn’t have to be invented for the first time! We will send some information to the Town and to the County so they can implement an effective process for Saugeen Shores too. Surely, someone in the Town or the County must agree that they should know at all times what is going on in a new subdivision development – after all, they are the ones who approved the subdivision application in the first place. Correct? Step 1 is complete. Check. Step 2 is complete. Check. There’s a problem at Step 3 – so now we follow the flowchart to determine the course of resolution and so on. It’s not that complicated to figure out.

Our Efforts and the Appeal Process:

As a quick recap of our fight against this development expansion, we provided input to the Town prior to the public meeting and Lynn also made a formal presentation during the Public Meeting. We also submitted information at the County level before their vote. We wrote letters to the newspaper, such as this one. When the County gave their final approval to proceed with this subdivision, we also then proceeded to the Appeal process stage. We were NOT going to back down on something that we felt passionately about even though it would have involved: hiring legal counsel, completion of forms, money to file the forms, money for lawyers and a substantial further commitment of our time.

We even contacted the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) on two separate occasions to ensure that we had our ducks in a row, so to speak. On both occasions, we received the same feedback. Based on the wording that appeared in the “Notice of Complete Application” for #S-2021-006 (as well as in other subdivision notices within Saugeen Shores), the OLT confirmed that the wording used in the Notice indicated that we DID have the right to file an Appeal as a member of the public. Check. The ONLY item the OLT stated we would need to have, in addition to the written Notice, was a letter from Saugeen Shores “Committee of Adjustment” confirming that the Town would allow us to file an Appeal. (We’ll get back to that latter point in just a moment.) Therefore, Lynn contacted the Town, on behalf of the “Committee of Adjustment”, to obtain said letter. And yet another surprise. In Saugeen Shores, it seems we don’t do things here as in many other communities. In this community, the County is responsible for writing these letters on behalf of the Town.

So, off to the County level we went. But there we hit another roadblock. They refused to give us the letter we needed to file an Appeal. They said, that in 2019, the rules which allow a member of the public the right to file an Appeal, changed. However, the Town and County still use old wording in their Notices three years later! Another screw-up on their side of the equation.

Here is the wording that is used in their Notices. Considering the involvement we already had on this particular application (as described above), we are confident you will concur that we, as a member of the public, have/had the right to file an Appeal on this subdivision application. The Notice reads:

If a person or public body does not make oral submissions at a public meeting, if one is held, or make written submissions to the County of Bruce in respect of the proposed plan of subdivision/condominium before the County of Bruce gives or refuses to give approval to the draft plan of subdivision, the person or public body is not entitled to appeal the decision of County of Bruce to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.”

The process of getting permission is certainly one that we are having difficulty wrapping our heads around. To us, that would be the equivalent of you wanting to sue “Company ABC”, but in order to file court documents, you have to get permission from “Company ABC” first before you can turn around and sue them. What is logical about that? The same applies for filing an Appeal against the Town and County – we have to get their permission first to take action against them. How utterly bizarre.

Post-Appeal Deadline Update:

The final date to file an Appeal was on October 19th (2022). That day came and went without us being able to file any paperwork and then, a week later on October 26th, large equipment arrived in our subdivision to start harvesting the bush to build a new street for 14 building lots.  Due to lack of information from the Town on something that was undoubtedly going to have a huge impact on all of our lives in this subdivision, it was not until October 26th that some of our neighbours finally knew that the subdivision extension was proceeding. As of November 15th (2022), large equipment was still working on initial clean-up of the trees and debris.

Since there is no checklist in place in Saugeen Shores, we are unable to give you, the residents, any further information as to what steps have been completed and which ones still need to be done.  In all likelihood, we suspect that many items on the “to do” list will be overlooked, minimalized, deleted, reprioritized and/or not given any further thought, now that the initial approval has been obtained. Who can we trust to oversee the management of everything related to Miramichi Shores Phase 4? Certainly not the developer.

Apology Explanation:

During our apology at the beginning of this letter, we mentioned our disappointment in not being able to “bring home the win” for our community. To “win” primarily meant two things:

1. It meant the protection of our subdivision so that its size would not be enlarged and therefore be put at more risk due to having only a single entrance/exit point,
2. It meant obtaining the right to live here safely with an alternate emergency access point being built.

On both of those issues, politics and money won over logic, safety and the value of people’s lives. As previously stated, we were willing to file an Appeal on our own as a member of the public even though to do so would have resulted in significant financial costs to us. We believe that potentially saving someone’s life would more than justify incurring those costs.

Clearly the government body, who changed the rights to Appeal a decision, must think differently in that regard – along with the Town, the County and the developer (who incidentally will pocket around $7,000,000 from the sale of those 14 building lots in Phase 4 alone). We are currently unsure how much money the Town has also profited from this particular subdivision application.

Lessons Learned:

Have we learned anything from this experience? Absolutely.

1. Never underestimate the power of money and politics. Whenever given the opportunity, either or both will take advantage of “the little guy”, so to speak.
2. Don’t be a hoarder, but save documentation. It could make life-altering differences in your life one day.
3. Live with integrity, honesty and do your best to make the world a better place.
4. More often than not, bigger is NOT better.
5. It is better to save a life than to intentionally put someone’s life at risk.

We hope you, the residents, will accept our sincere apologies. We whole-heartedly tried our very best to better our community.

Lynn and Dan Staddon