Criteria for a minor derogation

2019-04-05

Dear friends,

April 1st, we had the council meeting to deal with the 80 Merton derogation request. As you recall, at the March council meeting, all the councilors, other than Councilor Shaffer who was absent, voted to grant the request and I vetoed it. I then sent a letter to all residents asking you to let the councilors know your opinion. The response was overwhelming. You wrote numerous letters and e-mails. You called the councilors and we had the greatest turnout at a council meeting that I can recall.

The vote on April 1st was 5 councilors against the derogation request, with only Councilor Elfassy voting in favor. What changed the councilors’ minds? Between the March and April meetings, we got a legal opinion which explained the criteria for granting a minor derogation. They are:

1. It must be minor.

2. It must not harm the neighbors.

3. Not granting it must cause a serious prejudice to the applicant.

All three criteria must be met. The entire council agreed that the applicant had failed to show that he would suffer a serious prejudice. Except for Councilor Elfassy, all said that they would follow the law.

All councilors stated that your interventions did not influence their votes and the decision was simply based on the law.

One thing is certain: You sent a loud and clear message to us. You want to preserve the look of our town and you do not want any precedents set by granting derogations to aspects of our by-law where we have never granted them before. These include the percentage of flat roof, the height of single-family homes, and the FSI (a measure of the volume of the house). Personally, I fully agree with this message.

I thank all of you who took the time to get involved in this very important issue.

Sincerely,

Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead

 

 

 

Where do we go from here?

 

When I first ran for Mayor in 2005, I had never been on council and knew little about how municipal government worked. My vision consisted of little more than being fiscally responsible, fixing our terrible infrastructure, listening to residents, and running an honest and ethical administration. That has not changed but with time and experience the council adopted a more detailed strategic plan. You can find the current version under Town Council on the Hampstead web site (www.hampstead.qc.ca). The plan and objectives are still valid but I feel we can go further.

While I may be biased, I think the town is being well run in accordance with our objectives but now with almost 14 years of experience, I think we can do better and the first step is a detailed study of all departments. We need more information and once armed with that, council must answer several questions which will guide us in the coming years. While we have done many studies in the past and were guided by the results, things change and a fresh look is always a good idea.

Let me use roads as an example. Objectively what is the state of each of our roads? We use StreetScan (a vehicle that goes over all our roads and rates them based on surface and below ground variables) to assess that but how often should we pay for reassessments? What quality is acceptable? How often should we redo roads and to what extent? How long will different interventions last – crack sealing, cosmetic surfacing, scarification to 40mm or 90mm and repaving or a total reconstruction? We have a rough idea of the answers but we have never dealt with this in sufficient depth in my opinion. Earlier, we had so many bad roads that this was not an issue but now that our infrastructure is very good, we need to work out the smartest way to maintain it.

Similar studies are needed for sidewalks, water mains and sewers. We also need to examine our vehicles and plan for the best time to replace them and maybe we need different vehicles and tools.

We also need to look at community services, the events we provide for children and adults. What can be added, dropped or improved? The same applies to our sports programs and our pool and tennis courts. While we have looked at these areas before, it is time for a new look.

We would like a new civic centre but how can we get the money without raising taxes? We did not get a grant last year and some feel we won’t get one in the future. Can we raise significant funds for naming rights? Will residents feel that it would be inappropriate?

Urban planning is another area that needs a closer look. Many new homes have gone up in Hampstead. Is the look of the town improving or getting worse? Do we need to modify some of our regulations? What about Cote St. Luc Road? Is it time to allow limited select commercial developments? What about a professional office building for doctors, accountants and lawyers? So many live in town and could walk to work and many of their clients live here too.

These are only some examples and doing these studies will be a lot of work for management and council but it is necessary if we want the best possible town. Once the studies are complete, we will have to look at the financial implications and do projections so we can reach our goals in a fiscally responsible manner. Government is about making choices but wise choices require good data, including input from you, our residents.

If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead