Investigator clears city committee of wrongdoing

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Cornwall city hall

CORNWALL, Ontario - An outside investigator has cleared a city committee of wrongdoing after a complaint was filed last summer.

Stephen Fournier, who has investigated city council in the past concerning its practices during in-camera meetings, said the Cornwall committee of adjustment acted properly last summer when it cleared a meeting room of bystanders before making a decision on a so-called "minor-variance application."

A minor variance allows property owners to use their land in a way which does not comply exactly with the requirements of a particular zoning bylaw.

In this case, the city's committee of adjustment made the decision behind closed doors July 13 before releasing the decision publicly, by mail, a few days later.

The complainant, who has not been identified publicly, felt that the committee should not have cleared the room.

But Fournier disagreed, suggesting that while the move is not a universal policy across the province, a similar practice takes place in cities like Ottawa and Toronto.

"It is clear the committee is acting on the advice and the interpretation of the applicable sections to both the Planning Act and the Municipal Act by the city solicitor," said Fournier in his report on the matter. "A committee of adjustment may hold a closed meeting - or meet without the public present - by virtue of its authority under the Planning Act."

The committee’s decision was supported by Coun. Bernadette Clement.

“It makes sense, because they are acting almost like a tribunal or a court – so it makes sense they would say they would discuss it and then send everyone a report,” said Coun. Bernadette Clement. “I’m glad to see the investigation confirmed the committee of adjustment acted properly.”

The property in question is located at the corner of Third and York streets.

Planning office representatives could not be reached for comment on details of the minor variance application.

Organizations: Cornwall committee

Geographic location: Ontario, Ottawa, Toronto York

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