Hamilton City Hall Credit: Joey Coleman

Chairing a meeting – any meeting – is a challenging task.

This past week, we witnessed two excellent examples of meeting management.

On Wednesday, Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann effectively dealt with numerous disruptions during Council’s General Issues Committee. Nann is the Deputy Mayor for April.

In the face of repeated disruptions, Nann calmly maintained order. For example, this clip of Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson trying to speak over her and change the order of the agenda.

City staff member Jamila Sheffield, the Secretary Treasurer of the Committee of Adjustment displayed an impressive mastery of the Planning Act and de-escalation tactics during Thursday’s meeting.

There were many application hearings involving complexities of the Planning Act, especially the complexities of the transition regulations triggered by the many amendments to the Act in recent years.

Sheffield provided comprehensive answers and explanations during the hearings.

Public meetings can be unpredictable. The CoA hears from dozens of applicants and delegates each meeting.

Hearings can become tense.

CoA applications nearly always involve personal property. The applicants own their lands, often it is their personal home or their largest investment. Tens of thousands of dollars can be on the line.

The stakes can be equally high for neighbouring property owners, who often attend to oppose their neighbours’ application. If there is an ongoing neighbour dispute, people bring their animosities to the hearing. 

Navigating the Planning Act, Building Code, and City Hall bureaucracy can be frustrating for people. Sometimes, they decide to vent at the Committee of Adjustment.

Defusing these situations is challenging at the best of times. In-person meetings at least offer body language and verbal cues. It is easier to use humour to defuse tense situations, a tactic

For the past two years, Sheffield has defused dozens of situations and masterfully maintained order. [It is why there are no videos to share of things getting out of control].

At the end of this week’s meeting, Sheffield masterfully handled an arrogant agent whom I’ll refer to as Super-Confidence Guy.

I’ve clipped the highlights of Super-Confidence Guy and posted the 3:40 clip to Twitter.

In short, the agent wanted to sever a rural property within the Greenbelt and make a bunch of profit.

The problem for him is he can’t sever the property because doing so will violate basically every planning law and regulation on the books.

That’s not going to stop Super-Confidence Guy.

In response to the CoA explaining the application goes against the Provincial Planning Statement, the Greenbelt Plan, the Rural Hamilton Official Plan, and Hamilton’s Zoning By-law, Super-Confident Guy declared he is going to go to the “Ontario Municipality Board” to get his approvals and that will cost the City more money.

You see, Super-Confidence Guy is really a good guy. “We are here to help the public,” he declared at one point.

Numerous times, he interrupted the meeting trying to speak over committee members. Each time, Sheffield professionally explained he had his opportunity to speak.

Upon having his application denied, Super-Confidence Guy made sure to tell the CoA again how he is going to the “Ontario Municipality Board” to get the decision overturned.

Sheffield professionally explained the process to file an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

The Ontario Municipal Board [not municipality] was replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in April 2018. The LPAT was itself amalgamated into the Ontario Land Tribunal in June 2021.

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First published: April 8, 2022
Last edited: April 8, 2022
Author: Joey Coleman
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