Original Published on Sep 29, 2022 at 08:00
Councillor says he is ‘deeply offended, deeply offended and insulted’
By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Blue Mountains Councillor Bill Abbotts has asked fellow Councillor Paula Hope to apologize for comments she made at a recent meeting about a vote on the town’s update to its official plan.
Abbotts asked for the apology at council’s meeting on Sept. 26 after making an emotional statement about the matter.
“I am deeply offended, deeply offended and insulted by the Sept. 13 meeting statement after the vote … that suggested non-candidates nay votes are not being responsible to the electorate,” said Abbotts. “I look forward to an apology and retraction of the statement. It would be the respectful thing to do.”
Abbotts was referring to the debate about the ongoing update to the town’s official plan. On Sept. 13, council debated several staff recommendations for how to proceed with phase one of the official plan update.
Members of council who are returning for the next term or running in the election advocated in favour of deferring the decision to the next council. While the other members who are not seeking reelection advocated approving phase one and sending it to Grey County for approval.
In the end, council voted to approve the first phase in principle, but held off on sending it to Grey County.
At the Sept. 13 meeting Coun. Hope expressed disappointment with the results of the vote and said, “maybe some people don’t have to answer for it with the electorate. Interesting how the vote went.”
In his lengthy statement, Abbotts outlined his reasons for supporting phase one of the official plan update.
“Change is inevitable. Character evolves as well. Good change needs to be embraced. Shortfalls need to be addressed,” said Abbotts. “We are short of green space and we are lacking affordable/attainable housing. I sincerely believe that increasing our height allowance in certain controlled situations and increasing density can help alleviate these two shortfalls and save trees. And this can be done without jeopardizing the evolving character of our town.”
Abbotts was referring to proposed changes in phase one of the review that would increase town planning policies around densification and allow, in limited cases, buildings as high as six storeys in town. The proposed height and densification changes in phase one have generated controversy and concern in the community about the character of the town being fundamentally altered if the draft policies are implemented.
In response, Hope offered an apology at the council table and also spoke to Abbotts one-on-one after the meeting concluded.
“I was taken aback with the fact that Coun. Abbotts had taken offence to my remark and requested an apology. I readily offered an apology to Coun. Abbotts for generating any feeling in which he felt diminished and that was related to anything that I said. As I said in council, and it is an important value to me, I would not want to unintentionally diminish anyone with any remark that I made in council or committee of the whole,” said Hope. “I went over to Coun. Abbotts’ seat after the meeting and offered my personal apology for my remark causing him any feeling of being diminished. My second apology was not well-received and I have not heard of any acceptance of my apology to Coun. Abbotts, to date.”
Hope said her remarks during the debate about the Official Plan review were pointing out the situation of council dividing along the lines of who was running for reelection or those who weren’t.
“I was referring to the fact that 50 per cent of council members were not running again and would not have to be accountable –a common phrase – to the electorate. The proposed Official Plan amendments had been opposed by 70 members of the public who had taken the time to write in about their opposition to firming up any amendments during this term of council,” she said. “Since half of council would not be running again, they would not be accountable to the electorate, who would vote according to their evaluation of the manner in which they had been represented by individual councillors. For the above reasons, I see no reason for apologizing for observing the reality of the situation and sharing it with my council colleagues and the public.”
In a subsequent interview, Abbotts said he was not satisfied with Hope’s apology during the meeting or afterwards when they spoke directly.
“Apologizing for hurting my feelings is just putting the blame back on me,” he said. “It’s not about my feelings, it’s about attacking my character.”
Abbotts added that he did not intend to push the matter any further.