Half of Hampstead’s councillors blasted Mayor William Steinberg regarding a letter he wrote to residents advocating for the replacement of 5781 and 5783 Côte St. Luc Road,where many vulnerable people live, with a 10-storey luxury apartment building.
During last week’s council meeting, it was announced that there will be a register Oct. 2 to call for a referendum on the spot zoning allowing the new project to take place. A sufficient amount of eligible residents signed the petition from all affected zones save one, which was only a church.
It was also revealed during the meeting that councillors Michael Goldwax and Warren Budning resigned from the three-member demolition committee. The other committee member is the mayor.
During the meeting, Councillor Jack Edery, who opposes the spot zoning, criticized Steinberg for the latter’s message to residents, which appeared on the town’s website and was mailed out to residents.
Edery referred to the letter’s last paragraph, which implied that he, and councillors Budning and Goldwax are anti-development on CSL Road. The letter said those who voted in favour are for development on CSL Road.
“It’s one thing to say we voted for or against a particular resolution, but to say we’re against development of CSL Road is, at best, misleading, because we are not,” the councillor added. “I want to do it in a fair way for the people on CSL Road, and for people who live on Queen Mary Road so they’re not adversely affected.
“To write this is to misrepresent our point of view.”
Much applause followed from the audience.
“That is your opinion,” said Steinberg. “The letter states MY opinion.”
“No, you’re saying my opinion,” Edery shot back. “If you want to say there was a vote and this is the outcome, that’s a statement of fact. Anything else is opinion.”
Steinberg responded that the letter had been on the town’s website for more than a week, and there was no objection until the letters were mailed.
“You say you are pro-development, but the development you are in favour of is six storeys, yes or no?” said Steinberg, referring to a height developers feel would not be economically feasible.
“The development I’m in favour of protects people on CSL Road, to the best of the ability of the developers, and is reasonable, and protects the integrity of the town,” Edery responded. “I just don’t like having my position misrepresented, and I especially don’t like having taxpayer money misrepresenting me.... You don’t have the right to make public statements on the public purse with regards to my opinion, and erroneously on top of that.”
Later, Steinberg told Edery, “you’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine, and in my opinion, based on what you clarified, you cannot say you’re pro-development, because, because...”
Goldwax then intervened.
“Mr. Mayor, that is not fair to say because that is not true,” the councillor said.
“Excuse me, I’ll get to you [later],” Steinberg shot back.
Several minutes later, Budning intervened.
“I just completely disagree with your assessment we’re all anti-development,” the councillor told Steinberg. “It doesn’t make sense. For a living, I’m a real estate investor and developer! How can you write a public statement saying we’re anti-development when that’s how I make a living?!”
Steinberg countered that Budning first voted for the zoning change, and opposed it in a subsequent vote.
“I absolutely did [vote in favour] the first time, and then I listened to my constituents!” Budning shot back. “I heard what they had to say and reassessed my opinion. The people elected us to sit around this table and listen to them, to make decisions that respect the electorate!”
Loud applause followed.
Steinberg asked if any other councillors wanted to speak.
“Am I being dealt with?” Goldwax said. “I wholeheartedly back every statement [Budning and Edery] made. Had we not been happy with [your letter before it was published], would you have changed what appeared on the website?”
“Absolutely not,” said Steinberg.
“There’s my answer,” said Goldwax.