This Riverpark development resurrection smacks of a conflict of interest

Posted December 2, 2013

Monday morning, Coun. Lise Burcher and Professor at the University of Guelph sent a memo announcing an open house that afternoon to be held in the Galleria of City Hall. The purpose was to show plans for the reclaiming of the river edge on the south side of Wellington Street currently occupied by a commercial plaza.

Why such short notice?  Did Coun. Burcher really want the public properly notified and informed?

This was a promotion by the administration about a year ago. At the time, carried a $16 million price tag. It called for demolishing the working retail plaza plus a stand-alone veterinary practice to create a Riverpark.

Here is another example of the administration’s munispeak. Warning: This sentence is almost unmanageable for the average intelligent person to comprehend, but please try it any way. It is classic munispeak as practised by members of the city administration:

“Harnessing the exquisitely crafted foundation of the Downtown Secondary Plan (take a breath) and the tremendous excitement generated by the recent and future leveraging of private sector contributions in the “lowertown area” south of Market Square, (ye gads a comma) my co-instructor Nadia Amoroso and I engaged our graduating Bachelor of Landscape Architecture students over the semester in the design of the open space quadrant south of Wellington Street (and bounded by Gordon Street on the west and Windham Street of the East).”

Exquisitely crafted? Does Professor Burcher need an editor with common sense?

The bothersome point is the councillor is acting as a planner and facilitator in her role as a university professor. When elected officials mix their vocation with their responsibilities to the taxpayers, there exists a conflict of interest. Further, she uses students in her courses to develop a plan without the approval or consent of the members of council. But the city ends up paying for the open house. Finally, if and when this project comes forward for a vote in council, how does Coun. Burcher cast her ballot?

She stated that the student exercise involved communication with a cross section of community stakeholders. Did that group include the owners of the plaza and veterinary clinic and the city staff, including the Chief Financial Officer? Of the community contributors to this student exercise, none were identified except one, George Dark, partner in Urban Strategies. This is the consultant hired to develop the urban design framework for downtown Guelph.

Who knew the city had hired a consultant firm to develop the urban design for downtown?

It’s great that architectural students conducted this assignment but it is another matter to pass this off as an accomplishment that will allegedly embellish the lowertown part of downtown. It’s putting the cart before the horse.

Of all people, Coun. Burcher should realize that there is no funding for this project. She is a member of council that has spent capital on many projects to the extent there is little left on the table.

Surely she must be aware of the lack of funding for a new downtown Library. The last estimate for that project was $63 million and it will attract 100 times the potential number of citizens to the Riverpark project. And the library will operate all year for all the people.

Coun. Burcher has sat on council for the past seven years when the new downtown library project kept getting shoved off the table. Oh! Council spent $5 million to demolish three properties on Wyndham Street as part of its new library planning. It created 20 new parking spaces. Gee, that’s only $250,000 a parking space.

Does that not resonate in the councillor’s mind? Particularly when she was elected in 2006, the Mayor promised a new downtown library would be built.

The Riverpark project insiders, but not the taxpaying public, will enjoy this open house.

And the administration wonders why citizens are upset at the way their city is being run.



Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “This Riverpark development resurrection smacks of a conflict of interest

  1. boomer

    This stinks. This is not acting in the best interest of the taxpayers at all.
    It’s indulging oneself in their own special/vested interest. AGAIN. Our council and our mayor are very good at it. Practice makes perfect I suppose.

  2. boomer

    Keep up the good work Gerry the taxpayers need to know the truth. Not being educated in how this city functions makes them apathetic and reluctant to show up at election time. We need change!

  3. geo

    The fix must be in. If a University professor puts her name to that pile of flowery crap she must be assuming no one is going to read it.

  4. Joe Black

    Yeap! This stinks and to spend 63 million on a library even more when everybody and their grandmother are using tablets etc. Maybe they should and take 10 million and reno the current library.

    ” Our homes are not your unlimited credit cards “

  5. Walter

    So Jan 3 I expect your name on the ballot for mayor so you can defend all these things said here

    • Walter: What’s to defend? I didn’t pull this caper off, Coun, Burcher did. When you start to mess with the smoke meat sandwiches from Angels, I get upset. This is just another example of the Farbridge gang of eight building monuments, with our money.

  6. Laura

    It is my undertnding that tthere was an OMB appeal on this plaza being turned into a park?? Has this been settled yet?

    Also in 1997 Burcher conducted a downtwn planning “Charette” with big posters handed out to show what he Downtown could look like.

    How many plans have there been and how much did this cost?

    What is interesting is that in 1997 the old Rockwell site on Wellington was identified as a the new park location. I am sure that site would have been a lot cheaper to purchase for a this site for a park since it had sat empty for years. Instead we gave the developer money to clean up the site to develop it into a commercial plaza.

    And finslly dont forget the money being poured into the developers pockets to redevelop the downtown. If cash in lieu of parkland dedication is one of the tax back grants given for redevelopment then the city will either have to pay for the plaza purchase for park with guess what – no suprise our every increasing tax bill

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