Editorial – Disturbing communication

SDG Counties warden Allan Armstrong called the action “disturbing”. That action related to a Morrisburg business losing one of its two access points to County Road 2 due to the roundabout and street-scape project.

Staff from the Counties’ transportation department were questioned at the November 15 council meeting about why arbitrary decisions regarding a project were made without discussion with the property owner(s) affected. The response was that the Counties dealt with “more vocal” businesses down the road. This is not the first time this year that Counties’ councillors have had to deal with arbitrary decisions made by Counties’ staff.

Earlier this fall, Council heard from residents along a county road in St. Andrew’s West. Some of the property owners had their driveways narrowed, or second entrances removed, as contractors were repaving and replacing other infrastructure along the road. SDG Counties council had to step in to provide a remedy.

Just last week, at a Committee of the Whole meeting for Counties, there was a “visioning” meeting between a consultant and councillors over what to do with the Cornwall Jail which is owned by SDG. This does not mean just the historic jail portion of the building, but later jail additions to the building made by the province. Many elected officials at past council meetings have said the additions should be torn down, yet a grant was used to “vision” what to do with the building.

There appears to be a communication breakdown between council and staff, and staff and residents, and that is disturbing.

Decisions like reducing the width of a driveway, or an entrance for a business, should not be taken lightly or made arbitrarily. If a bylaw is vague, the obvious answer is to review and amend that bylaw. A poorly written bylaw does not exempt Counties’ staff from communicating and working with property owners to deal with their concerns. There is a responsibility for staff to properly communicate changes to the use or enjoyment of property. When there are issues, the loudest complainers should not be the only ones to have a fair resolution to their issues.

Likewise is the case when considering a study for a building that council has already said it has no appetite to any further. If the direction given, formally or informally, is to not do something, do not do it.

Communication breakdowns like these have a cost, and that cost is always born ultimately by those who foot the bill – us.

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