On July 5th, some community members submitted objections to Dunpar’s application for absolute title to a sizable amount of waterfront land on the site beyond the land described in the survey that came with the developer’s title when the property was bought. They feel strongly that this land, described as open space parkland on City zoning maps, is public land and should not just be given automatically to the developer, at least not without an adequate explanation of what looks like a virtually undefended land grab of public property. (Here is a link to one of the objections.)
The City says it has no claim on it (yet inexplicably identifies it as parkland!) and it looks like the Province has settled for a claim on what amounts to little more than the rocks at the waterline! Both jurisdictions have increased public waterfront access as policy!!
The community members expected that their objections, in the absence of objections from the City and the Province, would lead to a public airing of the issue and an explanation from Dunpar as to why they should be given the land and under whose authority. The community expected answers from the developer, a sincere attempt at resolving the objections by the developer’s counsel and a public hearing at the Land Registry.
Instead, Dunpar’s lawyers informed the objectors that a legal action has been initiated against them at the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice for what they claim is willful obstruction to the developer’s endeavours and that damages to the amount of one million dollars will be sought. The lawyers have told the objectors that if they withdraw their objections the lawsuit will be dropped. Some of the objectors have, under duress, decided to withdraw their objections in the face of this threat.
This amounts to blatant intimidation by a developer with deep pockets in order to limit public participation in the planning of their community in order to get what they want. This practice by powerful developers to muzzle opposition has become so common that it now has its own term – SLAPP - Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. (A Google search of this term will describe its chilling effect on communities and the efforts by some North American jurisdictions to outlaw the practice. Here is a link to a recent article in the Globe and Mail about it.)
The adversarial and non-communicative approach taken by John Zanini, owner of Dunpar, to resolve development issues on this site with the community needs to stop.