Why not Omnibus Referendum?

This was not my idea, it’s mostly  Jim Duff’s and evolved in a conversation we had this week. He’s down with a horrid made in Japan Man Cold and maybe he’s slower than usual. Over the years he’s freely stolen and scooped many of my good ideas, sometimes with credit, so I’m thrilled that finally Jim’s had one really good idea worth beating him to the punch on.

There was a much derided omnibus bill early in the Prevost administration, so I hesitate to use that word here, but what I’m thinking is an Omnibus Referendum.

We have so many contentious issues and plans in Hudson that it might be time to hold a constructive multi-questioned omnibus referendum.I’d hate to ask our town lawyers and I’m not sure what the legal issues are about polling outside of a proposed bylaw for some of these, but those would just be directional opinion polling of all interested citizens.

Sandy/Pine Beach as re-proposed by the developer would top the agenda for me. Propose the bylaw required, skip the signing process and simply promise a referendum. The developer needs and deserves a clear statement of the general public, not Council, sentiment.

Mayfair semi-detached re-zoning would be important.

Let the Ellerbecks table their latest plans and have the town judge thumbs up or thumbs down.

Pine Lake repair. Table an estimated cost and see what the townspeople say about finally fixing it.

What about rezoning R-55 for a more marketable use like mixed townhouses, residences and condos linked to the sewers? Have town planning propose some densities and lot sizes and see how the people really feel about it.

I’d go long on several points like the Arts Center in the strategic plan, acceptable future development levels, water supply, spending priorities like recreation versus paving, zoning guidance like height limits and lot sizes in the downtown core.

There’s room for a few more, probably any more than ten issues would overwhelm the jungle drums and rumour mills in Hudson.

Hold a series of public meetings or question periods on the issues, several per meeting should be fine. For and against Facebook pages could evolve on the issues.

This would really ask the people at large what the Town of Hudson’s priorities should be. No one can hide from the results, everyone needs to be guided by the results and in the case of proposed bylaws we could be bound by the results.

We’d get a lot of bang for our buck all at once, unblock or kill some critical issues quickly, and generally force discussions into the light of day.  At the worst case, it would give those considering seeking office in the next election, as well as sitting Councillors who might run again a solid feel of the average people’s thinking.

 

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34 thoughts on “Why not Omnibus Referendum?

  1. I’m all for all of those. There were a lot of Alls in that last sentence. As far as I’m concerned, Sandy beach is water under the bridge. Bylaw 408 and 409 went to a referendum, and only 25% of the people showed up with a 72% approval rate.

    Going back on the last sentence, I feel it important to say, about 8 people contribute here regularly. 50 Now show up to the council meeting regularly. The town has about 200 involved volunteers. Where are the rest of the 4,950? if even 50% of that number couldn’t care less what happens day in and out, well then we’re chin deep in a septic tank, and I think someone is just about to flush.

    The last municipal elections were the lowest turn out in recent history. The mayor vowed to go to the local high schools and try to increase participation, and I don’t know if that ever happened.

    I remember when council meetings were 5 or 6 people. Steal a few million dollars, and that number has ballooned to 50 every month, some of those people who mostly dedicate themselves to crucify this council for past wrong doings they weren’t involved in.

    I see previous mayors on facebook all the time.. Why hasn’t this administration.. why hasn’t this council… why didn’t… No, Why didn’t you push (X-Topic) through your council? When it comes to roads, the roads weren’t hit with a meteorite last night.. now suddenly it is this council’s fault? What a bunch of bologna.

    Above, everything you mention requires participation. if only 20% of the population would vote in a referendum, what a colossal waste of taxpayers money.

    Pine lake has already been shot down by registry. My fear it will never be repaired as while beautiful for the town, it benefits mostly the people within a direct vicinity of it. Plus someone has filed a law suit about it, so that will slow down the process even further, all though we were promised an update at the next council meeting.

    All good ideas, All will get the same collective 10 people online saying NO, Odds are some will generate another petition that some idiotic loser named Kevin many moons ago said had no legal value… fast forward to last week, then councilors at the last council meeting said petitions from change.org…had…no..legal…value.. Seems a little like deja-vu for me.

    I don’t know where I stand on this, I’d have to reflect deeper on your entry, but I feel as though if people don’t wake up, and don’t participate further then their keyboard on Facebook, holding all those referendums will just cost a fortune for nothing.

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    1. Kevin Ilaqua, Since Italians don’t eat baloney, and trust me on that, I don’t know what you are talking about. Some previous mayors commenting on FB? there are only 2 of us Liz and myself, don’t be shy, you can name us. When you say a meteorite didn’t just crash land yesterday the roads have been a mess for decades. You are right, so I will throw it right back at you, where were those citizens all those decades ago who were here a long time before Matt and I were, since I wasn’t here maybe they were actually asking previous councils to raise and taxes and invest in infrastructure but I somehow don’t think so, so please refrain from making that kind of comment. Liz’s council put in a much needed bus route, put in sewers and improved water quality and I don’t know how many other important things, before my time. Our council, in 3 years., paved Cote St. Charles, and I know you were not impressed that we didn’t completely redo it, shored up McCauley Hill, replaced culverts, put up a firestation, redid the Halcro cottage and fixed potholes. I know I personally used to go around in my district and tell public works if there was a particularly huge pothole so that it would be taken care of..
      As far as having public meetings discussing the issues I think it’s a great idea and I would participate for sure. You would need a moderator though, not council. I would also not use the word “omnibus” as I think citizens won’t buy in, but that’s just me. I always thought the job of a councillor was actually to know the pulse of your constituents, what was important for them but for that you have to go door-to-door, person-to-person to engage. After all you are representing THEM not yourself.
      If I have been critical of this council and you are right I have, but that is because I expected more, certainly in transparency. If you look at what special responsibilities all councillors and mayor have, just look on the town website – Infrastructure, Environment, Finances, etc.
      November will be a good time to give councillors a grade on those responsibilities, “A” for exceptional, or effort, “C” for so-so and “F” for failure. Citizens will have the last say. Maybe some present councillors will seek and get re-elected or we will have all newbies. I wouldn’t worry about all newbies as this council did have a councillor who was experienced but we all know what happened there. You have to take advice if you want to profit from someone’s experience. There are good people out there with experience and common sense who could and would want to guide them.
      And one last word, Kevin is right on one thing, there is so much apathy among the citizens, less so than before the LV fiasco but unless issues start to affect people in the pocket book, many prefer to go on with their life.

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      1. I was at the council meeting when Liz Corker said “As soon as the sewers are done, we’ll be repaving all the streets ” I was there, It was quoted in the papers, It is in my notes.

        It’s a good thing I didn’t opt to hold my breath, because, correct me if I’m wrong, It didn’t happen.

        I’m actually right on most of those things, but if you’re only willing to concede in one, I’ll consider it a victory.

        And you’re right, I detest the job done on Cote St. Charles. A 4 CM layer of asphalt is completely useless, unless we were planning for the weather to never go below freezing again. Within weeks, certain portions had cracked. Now, lots of portions are cracked. But back up- If it cracked within weeks, that’s covered under Quebec’s legal warranty law. Who called the company to tell them to come back and fix it?… No one. Which brings me back to the age old debate, Hudson gets railroaded by the AMT and major companies.

        I guess people are afraid of a little confrontation. Luckily I’m not, but I don’t represent the town.

        Did you tell Joel Gauthier that you taped his cheque to the back of the train from Hudson, so that when it’s late.. he’ll know why?

        Much like Steve Shaar, I would have told them, including the SQ… No service, No Money. Like Jim Duff pointed out, Illegal to withhold money? Yes. So? Come and get me, I’ll start removing my jewelry and prepare to be arrested. I hope the mattress on the bed in jail is organic cotton, but I won’t hold my breath. I’ve learned that sometimes in politics, you have to be an asshole. Not to the people, to the people we pay.

        As long as we keep up the carte blanche, not verifying people’s work, or holding them accountable for the money we pay to them.. we’ll be right in the position we are in now. E.g. The snow removal guy.

        Tom Birch and I had a plan to lose the SQ. 5 years of government lobbying, continuously, will land us back with our own police force again. Not this 1.7 million dollars a year, based on housing evaluations for a one car a week in Hudson garbage. In 2001, the budget for the Hudson Police force was ~ 800,000$. 2 cars, 8 officers. 24 hrs. In Hudson. Now we pay double.. for less? What planet is this acceptable in? Right. The planet where everyone just says.. Okay.. You were councilor when the SQ captain made a presentation, and proclaimed there was an SQ car in Hudson all the time, 24/7. It takes more then a tie, buzz cut, and nice smile to convince me by the way. But I couldn’t help but notice nobody from YOUR council said.. You’re full of garbage.. out loud or to him, call him out. Clearly the fear of being the dumping ground of parking tickets from now until the apocalypse was the reason for not refuting his fact. Because not only did he not have any documentation to prove this fact. There was no reason to believe its true.

        You got a fire station up, because time was up on your allowance from the then CSST board. It was either build new or be shut down. 9 years after the infamous accident. NINE. NINE years Hudson firefighters operated in an unsafe environment after that report and no one did anything. There were so many safety violations on that fire station, if I started naming them now, I’d never finish writing. NINE YEARS.

        It was also YOU as mayor who hired the female version of Idi Amin who has caused the biggest turnover in employees in Hudson’s History. Who put a 40 year town employee out the door, an according the court case: illegally, and who has solely contributed to the legal bills in Hudson to the extent of 350,000$. What a brilliant hire. That was your biggest employee turn over, Not now when one or two people leave. 6 months, 13 employees. AND STILL you stood by her, when clearly there was a management problem. Hullard must be Latin for revolving door. If Trail Grubert is reading this, I apologize on behalf of all Hudsonites who knows he got the shaft. I hope one day the administration issues you a former written apology.

        So, back to what I was saying, I think being critical of this administration when I’ve mentioned just some of the boo boos of yours isn’t fair. Your administration was full of positive things, and so is this administration. But if you’re going to focus on their downfalls, Your administration wasn’t a basket of fruit either.

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  2. I saw a glimmer of hope tonight , Kevin, I attended the Hudson Farm Collective’s info meeting at the community center, It was packed with a demographic 80% under the age of 35 and they were as exuberant as an old time evangelical tent crowd. Mum’s with toddlers and hubbies with beards…………food baskets , organic produce, farm stands all brought cheers from the crowd. They had apparently gone on a quest to find a suitable name for the venture at the schools and elsewhere and it was announced the winner was ” Heart Beet Farm”. Something’s happening there that means something. The only down moment for me was when my Town councillor and chair of the agricultural Committee’s 2 meetings in 3 years decided it was a good photo op and decided she had to speak . OK that last part was uncalled for……and I was doing so well with the kinder , gentler me.

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    1. Kevin, Catherine Haulard started work for the town on Sept. 1,2013. Our council left Nov 3rd? In those 2 months under our council she put in place much needed controls on spending and basically took away some candy so she was not going to be popular. This council did inherit her for sure just like in other towns. Problems arose because of the judy Sheehan issue. Please get your calculator out and see how many employees hired by this council left after CH had been suspended. Ramin; the tax girl who came from west mount can’t remember her name; Serge Raymond, past treasurer for Kirkland for what? 26 years, not a neophyte; The assistant treasurer mrs. Groulx or Giroux?; the DG who stayed 3 days; the temporary DG Duncan Campbell; Julia; Vincent Maranda; maybe more in other departments; then the suspensions of a couple of long-time employees ALL decisions taken without the presence of Mme. Haulard. I see the town just settled with an employee maybe CH’s case? Maybe not but I would like to know how much the town had to pay of our taxpayer dollars plus add the lawyers fees. If it was such a clear cut case why did it cost this much and take over 2 years!? So you’re right it was not very classy to put a 40 year+ employee through the wringer but perhaps you can put the blame where it is due and that is on that DG who did not think it important to keep records of vacations not taken etc. Had I seen that he was the only person who could vouch for his days owed and I, the town had not kept proper records, I would see the futility of a challenge, paid up and saved the employee and the town hours of aggravation and legal fees. In the end town gave him was he said he was entitled to. Just remember that the buck stops at the top, the mayor.

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    2. Agreed. I too sensed last night at the launch a gentle yet definite awakening towards something greater for Hudson’s next generations. Unfortunately, the quick plug made back to the Strategic Plan in the short video presenting the project almost cancelled last night’s warm buzz for me. I look forward to going to the HHB (Hudson Heart Beet) in a little over a year’s time, to thin, weed and tend the seedlings when I can and feel quite confident I won’t be running into the photo opportunists of 2017. It will be great!

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      1. Too bad I had to miss it but I agree it’s very refreshing to have young people getting involved in the community. To see mostly under 35 at this meeting is great but it’s like preaching to the converted. My suggestion to the organizers to gather more support is to come to a public council meeting and explain the project and benefits to the older crowd.
        This project is something I could be behind especially now that the spokesperson has been very up front about costs to the taxpayers. I would have preferred our councillor responsible for this project use her time to lay it all out instead of just saying “it’s part of the strategic plan and won’t cost the town anything as it’s on town-owned land.”. We shouldn’t have to find out through an access to information request what the town is actually throwing in, that just creates misunderstanding.
        And I agree photo ops are useful but are so much more efffective when there is substance behind them.

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  3. The word omnibus is so fouled as a legislative tool I see no hope for its future. If I was a developer and my project was under review I absolutely know I wouldn’t want to be corralled into an all or nothing zoning bill with a bunch of others , some of them stinkers. If what you meant was they would all be considered on their own merit and referendumed separately then I guess I can see that but isn’t that what we already have essentially. I might have missed something key in this proposal , Peter.

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  4. Brian, you may have misunderstood. Omnibus was maybe a bad choice. This was not an all or nothing, but a referendum on say 6-10 different items. The reason for multiple items is to keep costs down and poll the town on a variety of subjects.

    Example: In Vermont on election day each year things like school taxes are approved by ballot on a line item level, it can be a disaster but the people feel good about being listened to and usually the feedback is very valuable. Major borrowing and other issues come up on election day and there’s usually someone getting elected every year.

    I’d love to see regular secure and verified online polling during a term. If you ever got 50% of the eligible voters to give you a yes or no, you’d have a more clear direction. Until then I think we should have an annual or bi-annual poll run by the town.

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  5. Brian,

    A Town website that allowed open discussion including criticism, while seeking verified and valid public opinions would be incredible but unlikely.

    By its nature the questions would be biased from their own agenda and choices and a solid majority for any initiative would be binding in ways that most elected officials would squirm at.

    But we can hope and maybe, just maybe, finding an affordable and timely way to consult a majority of citizens could become a plank in a potential mayor’s platform.

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    1. In the interim, another paticipatory format to be considered would be that Council Meetings be made accessible via webcasting where live questions could be submitted from residents who are otherwise unable to attend due to work schedul conflicts, are out of town on leasure or business for extended periods of time, or who simply find it difficult to get to the meeting due to physical and/or health limitations. Credit for this suggestion: Bannon Danger Woods.

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  6. Chloe, Question period is the least productive part of Council meetings these days, expanding it to online questions would make meetings even less productive.

    There’s already bad management of questions, ie. No first period questions should be allowed on agenda items because that’s basically what second question period is about. Also there’s the legal requirement to read the resolutions and bylaws, move and second and do the trained seal flipper raise that sucks time from real issues. I know those are legal requirements, so perhaps a monthly or quarterly meeting for planning and direction.

    I’ve got a couple of suggestions that all spell transparency:

    1) Publish the answer to all access to information questions on-line.
    2) Allow online (Town Website) questions at any time, same protocol as AI, but if they choose to answer publish it as public knowledge. This save multiple and repetitive answers to the same questions.
    3) Make 2 and 3 searchable so people can better inform themselves
    4) Add all questions at council meetings to this knowledge base and actually answer this month’s council questions within 14 days after the council meeting.

    It can be done much better than we do it now, hopefully the next Council will understand that the people eventually get the answers anyway, the Town can do it fast and easy or they can do it hard, slow and expensive.

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  7. Agreed except that in re-writing rules such as the Town Council Meeting format, with the intent to facilitate, to ‘streamline’, to reduce over-burden, this runs the risk of opening the door to de-regulating the check and balances process. Not unlike what is going on with our Advisory Committees right now. Efficiency and freshness are wonderful as long as those in charge strive for performance and collective memory. Your solution addresses the later. But, what happens when instead our leaders are satisfied with providing the strictest minimum?

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  8. Our current checks and balance process is pretty toothless anyway, but nice to see that you believe that it could be worse than it is. It’s a very rare agenda item that doesn’t get voted and approved, remind me if you know of any that were ever stalled by citizen’s questions.

    Townspeople are so damned inconvenient sometimes, who knew you have to listen to them more than once every election cycle?

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    1. Peter Radcliffe, wasn’t the omnibus withdrawn? I know it was mainly Rob Spencer’s objection but he was only one vote on council so that wouldn’t have stopped it. I think questions by citizens had something to do with it.
      As far as no first period questions being allowed, I’m not so sure. Council is already passing resolutions, or at least notice of motions then have to answer questions from citizens about these same items on the agenda. If it were a fait accomplit, what is the point save for voicing opposition to something that just was passed.
      Great idea to publish all access to information requests. My question to council is what are they trying to hide if the only way to get an answer is through access to information? Why don’t you public the list of all organizations who are getting subsidies when you are passing a resolution? Why is it only available through access to information. Others towns make it public. It looks like council is not ready to justify their choices. Doesn’t look good. Councillors, each and everyone of them, who are voting, should be justifying their vote whether it is a yeagh or a neigh. They are making a decision on the vote based presumably on information they have at their disposal.and have had ample time to study the issue.

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    2. Here’s one: we were told by Councillors that the 2015 Omnibus was stopped because of Citizens’ questions and concerns. Checks and balances still work as long as mistakes are made along the way, however it gets tiring to constantly be looking for slip-ups just so that are listened to. Thanks Peter for keeping up the forum while Duff recovers from his Made in Japan Man cold.

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  9. There’s some confusion on my comments about First Question Period. I think two question periods are a good idea and fine.

    My comment was that in the past, questions about items on that meeting’s agenda were disallowed in first question period because logically the issue would be discussed in more detail during the meeting and then second question period would have better informed questions and perhaps questions about agenda items would already have answers.

    There’s an immense amount of trust put into a Council, they have broad powers of spending and zoning and citizens have virtually no effective recourse until the next election.

    So a Trustworthy Council is essential to a smooth running town, and nothing oozes trust more than open and transparent. So, when we make multiple citizens jump through the same hoop to get the same information that is basically our public property, we sow the seeds of distrust while creating far more work for our town administrators.

    Only a few things like HR and some legal files should be kept private. Example of an extreme case: I really feel that Rob Spencer’s complaint should have become public very early on. There was little to gain except doubt by keeping it behind closed doors while the system ground on slowly.

    The more information we give the townspeople the more informed they can be and perhaps the more involved they’ll get.

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    1. Peter Ratcliffe, Chloe Hutchison, Brian Grubert. Citizens have to trust that the information or answers to their questions is truthful. Nothing breeds mistrust like half truths. When the Rob Spencer complaint was before the MAMOT, citizens asked council for some news on the complaint. Through Access to Information, I received and read the decision of MAMROT to drop some of the items on the complaint. I believe the date was around Dec. 2015. The rest of the issues would go on to the Municipal Commission. The authorities decided not to pursue certain items in the complaint ONLY because the DG, Duncan Campbell, had assured them that now that he was at the helm, proper procedures would be followed. If the DG or council had admitted publicly that yes, they made some mistakes, instead of having the DG say that the authorities dismissed those complaints as unfounded, or irrelevant, it would have gone a long way to show good faith on the part of council. That decision alone, to skate around the decision from MAMOT did it for me. I no longer trusted anything council told citizens. Add to that the lack of transparency on so many other issues and well, you can tell why I’m not a fan.
      I still think the first question period which is now limited on issues on that night’s agenda should be allowed specifically because questions can be raised BEFORE they are adopted at the sitting. Yes, most decisions are taken at caucus but legally, only decisions or resolutions taken at council sittings do they become law.
      I will stay away from commenting on architectural by-law as it really is not my forte. Here is a good example of things gone wrong. When I lived in Beaconsfield on a small stretch of private road leading to the lake, very similar to Quarry Point, a house was built right in front of my house. We are actually 4 houses on this small stretch of private road. When we realized that the house was going to tower over all our houses, sort of like the Quarry Point Architectural Digest style home, we went to the city. They assured us that everything would be monitored, after all, the town had a surety bond from the owner that he would follow all the rules, well in the end, the town came to measure the house, which we 3 neighbours thought was really too high according to the zoning by-law and do you know what happened? Town took the measure from the public road at the top of our private little stretch which was way lower than the public street, making the height “legal”. If they had taken it at ground level next to the house, it would have been a different story. Perhaps now they have tweaked their zoning by-law. I guess the town was trying to appease the owner who would be billed around $40,000 a year in taxes. We moved!

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    2. Peter, I lobbied the mayor to retain the first question period after he had said it would be removed early in his mandate. My argument was that the first question period was the only way that we, the citizens, would be able to raise questions on the items on the agenda that were about to be approved. As you know, the second question period is too late to challenge the agenda items that have been passed. The compromise was that the first question period was to only be for questions in regards to the items on the agenda. As you can see, that new protocol lasted one month and it is now back to a free for all.

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  10. Peter, you make the point for better transparency beautifully. On the other hand, if questions in the first part of the meeting are restricted and can’t be on items or by-laws down the list, how can concerns or request for deeper presentation of the issue be tabled before these become fait accompli?

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    1. In an ideal world the Council would ask for public objections before voting anything significant.

      In the real world the action is all at caucus and the decisions are mostly unanimous which isn’t really reflective of a real world, Council is just the rubber stamp.

      Open caucus is the real answer for greatest transparency, except for issues where confidentiality is required like HR and legal.

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      1. Exactly comment was to Chloe’s comment. Not Peter’s. Caucus is for the elected officials, not the public in my opinion. If I was an elected official, I would appreciate a civilized environment to discuss issues and make decisions. Monthly council meetings will go on forever without proper caucus meetings.

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  11. In the interests of transparency a public info mtg. is scheduled for tomorrow night(21/3/17) to modify certain bylaws . First is the amendment from 9 to 12 months as the grace period to restart an acquired right after an interruption of use as in e.g. the Willow. Second is an amendment to the fence bylaw allowing the posts or columns to not exceed the ht. of the fence by 6″ e.g. castle on Quarry Point. Now if they could just amend the ht. of bldg. bylaw to measure from existing preconstruction grade instead of the finished grade postconstruction as is now in the construction bylaw ……but ,hey, baby steps in our day late and a dollar short urban planning dept. Feelin’ righteous this morning. Sap’s running.

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  12. Reference finished height above mean water level or some other fixed reference.

    Modern GPS surveying gives altitude information very accurately at low cost. There’s been way too much slop and it always creates controversy when it happens. And we’ve never seen one built lower than planned.

    I get that once the dig starts it’s too late and when you hit water the easiest fastest solution is to build a huge mound to correct the fact that you ignored the water table for your Mansion Planning.

    How hard is it to check water table level at the planning stage?

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    1. Ok, you got me Peter, one last answer before I head to a meeting on site. Typically, the surveyor would give you a few key existing site levels when he/she surveys the limits and other occurances on your property. These are placed with accuracy on the land surveyor’ plan and easily used at the time of design to set ground floor height. This height then is transfered on site by a surveyor again when foundations are positioned, simply positioning foundations as he/she does already in 2D adding a 3rd point vertically for 3D/height positioning. One would not need to go to this level of precision all the time but would be important in cases where wetlands, flood planes, landslide and other noted land level changes are critical. Also in the protection of old tree root systems. Simply best building practices which need to be regulated/supervised by a Town that cares about its natural scapes and the quality of basements/buildings decades down the road.

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  13. I’ve built a few bldgs. I crudely just dig a hole where it will be located to 8 ft. and let it sit for a day to see where the water table is. Ideally spring would be a good time. Doesn’t always work out that way. See where the water rises to and set the footings just above. Now sometimes , as Peter says , the water table might be at 4 ft. and the house will need to be mounded as per one on Bellevue at present whose foundation top is above his neighbors windows. There goes the streetscape which begs the question : should basements be allowed in all circumstances where some semblance of streetscape esthetic is a sought after result?

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    1. Tough one there Brian. I have yet to see a by-law that stops an owner from building a basement. Typically, as you have to dig to set footings to accepted frost line. Most people simply dig down a little further and dig out the rest of the space and pour a slab for extra space. Maximizing their investment. Definitely locking the ground floor height to say 12″ max above natural grade would be a great place to start.

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      1. We actually did that at TPAC on some projects . Set the grade of houses from the center line of the road mid-point on the lot where the bldg. was to go. Left some wiggle room : no more than 18″ above or below the bench mark. e.g. were the 3 houses on the water opposite the Cameron farm at my end of time. We actually even had some arch. coherence to the 3 houses because we had a builder who didn’t think it was an infringement of his constitutional god given rights to build anything his heart desired. He built the middle one according to pretty strict guidelines but mistakenly sold off the lots on either side. The new council at the time allowed the new owners to do what they wanted to mixed results. But the grades were more or less adhered to. It certainly wasn’t perfect but at least the discussion went there. I always assumed our planners had incorporated these considerations into the construction bylaw. I was wrong.

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  14. Deep basements are a privilege, not an absolute right.

    It would seem that basements really need to be Conditional when we approve a building. Right land, right drainage, right siting and you can go as deep as you want.

    That would force the due diligence by the builder to ensure that a deep enough basement can be installed without raising the streetscape level.

    Otherwise we get the poor owner stuck and we’re bad guys if we say no to a mound mid dig, like the Quarry Point McMounded McMansion that tied the local laundry in naughts.

    Now how hard was that? Simple logical and clear. No special mid-construction deals allowed.

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  15. Daren, there’s Caucus and there’s the monthly Raucous.

    There are examples of communities with open caucus meetings. Citizens observe but don’t have to be included in discussions. Caucus is the only place issues are discussed from all sides, once they arrive at Council they’re decided and set for unanimous approval without complex discussion.

    Council solidarity is a public illusion, every decision can’t really be unanimous. We the citizens should have the right to hear what goes on and why decisions are being made and what’s being balanced against what. Or perhaps Council could do a better job of posting notes online of why decisions are being made, what the thinking was, what else they affect, how much is being spent and where the money will come from.

    In short, I think distrust is often all about the perceived walls around our information and especially the lack of timely and comprehensive information available on the Town’s website.

    Simplistic minutes of TPAC meetings published months late are of little use as just one example. Does anyone know what the next step and timeline for Pine Beach is? Will there be a public discussion or simply a sudden agenda item on one of the next Council meetings? Frankly the developer has been more open and public than Council so far.

    Does anyone know what our PMAD plan will be, will there be public consultations, an actual plan or simply a rush to meet the last oft extended deadline in too much of a hurry for public input? I really need to know exactly how many condos I can build on my 18,000 square foot village lot and if I can get a 4th floor an elevator makes sense, the roof deck will have spectacular cross lake views and the penthouse suites will be a million bucks each.

    Not having directors at Council meetings in the name of cost savings no sense and makes good information harder to get than it was 20 years ago. Trail Grubert was an exceptional resource at Council meetings when questions of land and infrastructure came up.

    If we’re not going to have Directors at Council, then the Councillors need to be right up to date comprehensively on their files.

    We also need to reduce the burden on our Town employees to answer AI requests by publishing almost everything we have without arm twisting.

    Sorry for the rant, my ire’s up on the lack of concrete planning progress in the past 3-1/2 years, I figure we’ve spent $1.5-2 million over that time and still don’t more than we did then about where we’re going.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed! And why make people feel that any challenging position is a threat or a personal attack to an elected person or a Town employee? Diversity of opinion and experience are signs of a healthy community, no? Variety of thought should be celebrated not quashed or attacked in back corridors. ‘Politics’ should not be a dirty word that makes people recoil and distrust the other.

      Like

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