East St. Paul residents opposing a smaller lot size proposal didn’t end up needing to speak to get what they were looking for.
At its March 12 meeting, the RM of East St. Paul council voted against changing a bylaw to allow 8,000-square-foot lot sizes in the rural municipality. The bylaw change was brought about after the Lombard North Group proposed a subdivision in the community with the smaller lot sizes.
The vast majority of lots in the RM are 17,000 square feet, though there are some 10,000 square foot lots for portions of the RM that are located within the Perimeter Highway.
Brian Duval, who headed up a grassroots group opposing the bylaw change, had received 776 signatures on an online petition as of March 14. Duval described the meeting as "a crazy night," with the public hearing being cancelled, leading to confusion among residents, approximately 200 in all, who initially took the cancellation as an affront.
However, they later learned council had opted to forgo the hearing because they’d decided to vote against the amendment.
At the public hearing, council voted not to proceed with the bylaw before giving it second reading, which is allowable under section 76(2) of The Planning Act. A public hearing must be held between the first and second readings under section 74(1) of the act.
"We closed the discussion on the bylaw amendment, and once we adjourned the public hearing, we went directly into doing a motion to completely remove it from going forward. That put an end to it. There was no discussion by anybody then," RM of East St. Paul mayor Lawrence Morris said in a phone interview on March 14.
Morris said council’s decision was based on maintaining the character of the community.
"That’s a little too small for our municipality. That’s not the vision of past councils and this council to go (with) lower lot sizes than an R-10. People come out here for a reason, and that reason is a larger lot size," he said.
Morris stressed that he and the four councillors were able to listen to residents leading up to the hearing, but could not be influenced by any information received outside of a public hearing.
"We have to stay neutral until a public hearing is held," he said.
When reached by phone on March 14, Lombard North Group president David Palubeski declined to comment on council’s decision.
With the Garven North neighbourhood having been in the works for over a year and taking some steps toward proceeding, Duval felt blocking by bylaw amendment was the citizens’ last chance to keep the smaller lot sizes out. Without the widespread response, he fears the hands of the mayor and council may have been tied.
"We’re glad it didn’t have to come to that," he said.