Council apologizes for DCC error

Local developer asks councillor to step down for her role as mayor during the time in question

A local developer asked two councillors to step down at Monday evening’s regular District of Kent Council meeting in connection with an incorrectly administered bylaw.

Allan Bott made the request to Coun. Duane Post and Coun. Sylvia Pranger, but for two different reasons. Bott was at Council to hear an apology for a mistake made more than 10 years ago at Council.

“We apologize to Mr. Allan Bott for mistakes made by Council in 2004,” said Mayor John Van Laerhoven. “We apologize to the community because the bylaw was not applied as written which resulted in inequities and unfairness.”

The issue goes back to the adoption of the Development Cost Charges (DCCs) Bylaw 1306 in 2004, with the purpose of collecting revenue for road maintenance. At the time, Sylvia Pranger was mayor, along with councillors Ted Westlin, Darcy Striker, Mel Jorgensen and Malcolm Herdson.

DCCs are applied when building permits are granted. According to documents from that time, concerns were raised by farmers about the charges which they felt were excessive. Consequently, DCCs were not collected from the agriculture community for new barns, shops, and other farming buildings from 2005 to April, 2009 when the bylaw was successfully repealed and a new DCC bylaw was adopted.

All told, more than $360,000 in DCCs were not collected.

Coun. Sylvia Pranger also made an apology. She says she has thought a lot about that period, and what a difficult time it was for Council and staff.

“But no, the buck stops here with me,” said Pranger. “I humbly apologize, sincerely, to Allan and to the community.”

Coun. Darcy Striker also spoke up, saying he can’t let Coun. Pranger take all the blame.

“She had four councillors and I was one of them,” said Striker.

He recalled that the bylaw came back to Council twice to be revised, it never got done, it “fell off the table,” and he apologized for that.

Bott formally addressed Kent Council in October, 2013 with his findings about the DCCs which he uncovered through a Freedom of Information request. The issue ended up going before the Office of the Ombudsperson. At Monday evening’s Council meeting, Bott was given the opportunity to respond. He was visibly shaken as he said no one in the room wants the issue behind them more than him after 11 years of battling it alone.

Bott outlined some of the points made in a letter from the ombudsperson. Several points he felt had now been dealt with such as a public statement of apology. He read out what he said was the best line from the letter.

“Adherence to the rule of law is critical in fair administration of democracy,” he stated.

After apologizing for any short-tempered manner in which he may have dealt with staff, Bott then asked Coun. Post about his farm, which was on the list of farms that did not pay DCCs during that period. Bott stated he believes the lack of adherence to the bylaw was widely known in the farming community.

“If you did know at the time […] I have to ask for your resignation,” said Bott.

Post was adamant he did now know, and said, “it was never asked of me to pay DCCs.”

Then Bott turned his attention to Pranger.

“It’s not an easy thing for me to do tonight, to ask that you resign,” Bott said to Pranger. “I don’t know what the rules are. This ends for me tonight, other than monitoring this process.”

Pranger did not respond.

Council adopted the public apology as read out, agreed to make a submission to the provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development government to retroactively apply Bylaw 1431 (a later DCC bylaw) to December, 2004, and made a motion to keep Mr. Bott informed about the application process at his request.