NIMBY’s and Some Rare Bird: Pointe OMB Hearing

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Among the many expert witness that will be presenting over the remaining weeks of the Pointes OMB hearing several participants and lay witnesses have been scheduled to appear.

While a participant’s or lay witness’ testimony is taken into consideration by the Chairman it may not be given the same weight as expert witness testimony, associated professional reports and government regulations. However, their personal knowledge of the issue often reveals the ‘atmosphere’ of the matter.

Of Avery’s collection of participants and witness, three presented during the first week of presentations. Below is a summary of what these three individuals shared.

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November 18th, 2014: John Campbell, Participant

Speaking on behalf of himself  as well as his wife and sister-in-law – who are long time property owners in Pointes, John Campbell was the first participant to come before the OMB Chairman, Blair Taylor.

The property has been in the family since 1853 and “the sisters have directly owned the property since 1965”. Campbell disclosed a forty year friendship with the Avery’s.

“It would appear to us that the issue of rezoning the property owned by Jeff and Patti Avery have gravitated towards two areas of disagreement -that of the scientific studies and those claiming Not-In-My-Backyard-Syndrome. We will not speak to the scientific part of this as we are not qualified to do so.”

Reading from his prepared statement, Campbell refers to City Council’s July 15, 2013 decision rejecting Avery’s application with mention, in part, to a Superior Court summary of the matter.

“It is interesting to note that Superior Court judge Robert Del Frate of Sudbury stated in his decision of July 15, 2013 – that of the 115 eligible owners of property that could be affected by the rezoning application only 27 were listed as part of Pointes Protections Association while the other property owners either had no objection to the application or declined to become members of this group. At no time were we approached by this group. This would lead to the NIMBY theory.”

Adding of City Council’s decision in 2013 Campbell states, “I personally suspect that some of Council felt that it was easier to let the OMB make the ultimate decision to avoid any future political ramifications.”

Campbell reinforces the financial benefit to the community should the development proceed. “The economic impact if the Council voted to let the project proceed would be substantial –up to 42 to 48 million in wages and another 68 million in building supplies purchased locally is not insignificant amounts of money for a city of this size. While this project would be a one-time expenditure by the applicant it certainly would not be forgotten of the continued annual tax benefits for the City- an estimated $550, 000 and upwards isn’t a small amount.”

In his concluding remarks he supported Avery’s vision of creating a lifestyle community. “The applicants want to develop a unique subdivision that would only enhance the City of SSM and would allow individuals to enjoy a rural environment that encompasses the St. Mary’s River and the Great Lakes which few have advantage to do.”

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November 18th, 2014: Richard Craftchick, Participant

Richard Craftchick and his wife have lived in the Pointes area for the last 18 years. When he first heard of the proposed development back in the early 2000’s Craftchick made sure to attend the numerous information meetings organized by the developer to seek answers and assurances from the professional bodies involved on the Pointe Estates project.

“My main concerns were the sceptic systems, effects on the potable water supplies and the effects of dredging the canal and what effect, if any, would it have on my property as well as the waterfront in general at the Pointe. What systems would be in place to ensure that the water in the canal would not become stagnate, who would be responsible to maintain the canal in the future to ensure all the safeguards would be supported financially?”

Reading from a prepared statement that was about five minutes in length, Craftchick noted that “a number of studies by qualified professionals as well as reputable agencies” were completed and demonstrated that the developer’s plans met the necessary requirements.

“I have read these reports and I feel very confident that the professionals and designated reputable agencies assigned to perform the required tests as outlined in a detailed package have provided the answers necessary to remove all of the concerns originally present from my point of view. The reports were detailed and professionally done. They provided more detail than what was originally required but yet the objectors to the development continued to raise the same concerns they had in 2006. It was then that it became apparent to me that regardless of what information they received from the required reports, they were against this development from being built in their backyard and had absolutely no interest in what the professionals had to offer in their reports in regards to addressing their concerns.”

Craftchick expanded upon his belief that those in opposition to the development were doing so not out of scientific rationale but from a personal viewpoint.

“What is it about the NIMBY’s in this City who feel that it is their inherent right to continually protest any future development in Sault Ste. Marie? When the Essar Centre was being planned they quickly rose to fight the construction of the new centre and heaven forbid they tear down a building that had such long term history with the City. It would be much better, in their opinion, to continually spend millions of dollars each year to repair the old Memorial Gardens. Then came the Hub Trail. This ran into opposition right across the City as the NIMBY’s did not want this trail anywhere near their homes or within their neighbourhoods due to the fear of increased traffic and disruption of their lifestyle. Thankfully there were enough people that could see beyond the objections and in doing so created an opportunity for these wonderful innovations to be constructed and to bring with them tremendous added value to our city.”

Craftchick expounded that he felt reassured by the state of the art technology that would be installed in the development and that the reports submitted by the developer provided scientific assurances that the development would be done properly.

In his final remarks Craftchick states, “This very innovative development will open up the opportunity for new home owners to have access to the pristine waters of the upper St. Marys River, Lake Superior and the many destinations and activities it supports.”

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November 21, 2014: Anthony Disano, Lay Witness

Anthony Disano, a seasoned gentleman of the community, grew up along the Pointes. He ran along the shoreline as a boy and in 1970 he purchased his home in the Pointes area. He is a volume of Pointes history incarnate.

When the Pointes controversy began, Disano noticed an increased amount of traffic along his rural road and in front of his home.

Speaking off the cuff, Disano shared what he observed. “There were people parked in front of my house, standing on my yard, people were slowing down in vehicles and driving past my house and then this car comes by with a canoe on top. So I ask myself ‘what the hell is going on?.’ So I inquired and I had someone telling me that they’re looking for a rare bird. So they could use that against the Avery’s that if the wetlands had a rare bird than we can’t do anything with the wetland. This is how stupid this thing is. Hey I’m all for environments but not for extremes- ok?”

Demonstrating his history and knowledge of the area Disano adds, “Now I could have told them about the loon –they didn’t have to spend that much time looking for one because in 1970 it was there. It wasn’t the same loon,” he chuckled. “It was the grandfather loon. They’ve been there since 1970. I used to run up and down the canal with my uncle’s boat when it was open. I used to swim there. It was beautiful water.”

Disano also recalled changes to the coastline and the canal.

“We had a lot there owned by a doctor and the canal got closed in because he bulldozed it. There was all these stories but that was the truth. He bulldozed the mouth of the river so we couldn’t get in. So from Pointe Louise- that one whole section was one big property until they bulldozed it. You can use all the excuses you want but they all say ‘oh that was swamp’ – well sure all of Pointe Louise was swamp. The loon, the ducks, the deer- nobody has left since I’ve been five years old and all the houses on Pointe Louise are all built now. And I don’t think they’re leavin’ because we might put some more houses there now.”

Counsel for Avery asked Disano to provide his other reasons for supporting the development.

“I think that it’s good for the City. The City is always crying about taxes. My father always dealt with the Avery’s and you know- I dealt with the Avery’s. And anything I know about the Avery’s – they were always first class and always did a good job. And I can’t see any reason why this development wouldn’t be first class and bring people to our neighbourhood. There’s a lot of hatred, from some people, for the Avery’s. So what are they doing – They’re going to try to use every excuse in the world to stop the development.”

Disano also shared that he hoped that the development could create more options for young people to stay home.

“I don’t want my grandkids to leave. If they can go to school and become an electrician or a plumber or any of that and go to school and come and stay here and work in our construction industry to advance them so they can stay in the Sault and bring their families here- that’s what I want.”

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