Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David loses to Goliath

The developers have bought out community groups opposing them in order to secure their 600-unit development plans for the Convent site.

Ashcroft Developments and the opposition community groups have signed a deal to drop their respective appeals with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The community groups had been in opposition to the height and density of the development. Ashcroft’s response was to make an appeal for even greater height and density. This raised the stakes since community groups stood not just to lose their appeal, but to see Ashcroft awarded a decision that would make things even worse.

As part of the settlement, Ashcroft will give the community a $200,000 donation. Knowing the millions Ashcroft stands to gain, this seems a very paltry sum indeed.

The community groups and individuals involved in the appeal will form a non-profit corporation that will administer the money, the purpose of which is not yet determined.

I’m wondering what happens to the money that has been raised thus far by the community in support of these OMB appeals. Part of the fundraising included the sale of lawn-signs with slogans such as ‘Respect Community Plans’ and ‘Just say no to over development’. I contributed funds not only by purchasing a sign, but also though the fundraiser parade I organized – so I feel an obligation to all who came out and who donated to know what will happen to the funds raised by the community as well with the buy-out money offered by Ashcroft.

I’m discouraged about this for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ashcroft gets to go ahead with their plan without, as far as I can tell, any concessions to the community’s concerns about height and density.

I’m also sad for the community which put its hopes and money into local associations who ended up being backed into a corner and forced to make a deal to avoid further losses. Was this indeed the best course of action – accepting small gains instead of risking big losses? There were few options.

In this story, David does not beat Goliath. Goliath is not only 9-stories taller, he has deeper pockets and friends in all the right places.

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