Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese called a press conference on Friday morning, to refute challenger Rick Green’s claims he “had nothing to do with” landowners’ funding of the Brookswood OCP when he was mayor.
“Rick Green, both on his website and during a mayoral debate on Shaw TV, falsely claims that I created the Griffith Plan (and) OCP with the developers. The public record shows otherwise,” said Froese.
Among those who attended Froese’s press conference were Councillors Grant Ward, Steve Ferguson and Charlie Fox. All three were on council when Green was mayor.
Froese shared public voting records from when Green was mayor (2008-2011) showing that it was under Green’s administration that the municipality agreed to accept $50,000 each from 10 land owners wanting to develop the Griffith area of Fernridge/Brookswood. This plan was supported by the majority of council, including the three attending the press conference.
On the Shaw TV debate, Green insisted that he has never had any involvement with the 10 landowners. When the petition from landowners to initiate a neighbourhood plan process came before council on Feb. 14, 2011, Green voted in favour of a motion to refer the petition to staff for a report on the implications of that idea.
When council authorized staff to proceed with a process to create a neighbourhood plan, on May, 30, 2011, Green was not present at the meeting.
“For the record, I was away for two consecutive meetings due to my daughter’s serious life-threatening illness. It was a very dark time in our lives and I was absent from council duties for about three weeks,” said Green, in a rebuttal to Froese.
All seven members of council present at that meeting (Councillor Kim Richter was also absent) voted for the motion. Councillor Mel Kosistky was acting mayor in Green’s absence.
“The landowners offered to provide advance funding to allow the Township to move forward with updating the OCP. . . under Rick Green’s term as mayor,” said Froese.
While Froese calls the false claims “frustrating,” he isn’t seeking legal measures against Green.
“I will let the public be judge and jury,” he said.
But Green stands by his word that he had nothing to do with, nor did he have any conversations with the 10 developers in Brookswood.
At the time during Green’s administration, developers in Brookswood were told Township planners were too busy in Willoughby to be looking at reworking the OCP in Brookswood, said Froese.
The land owners came together and paid to hire a planner, Lisa Moffett, on a two-year contract to create a revised OCP. In that time she held seven open houses, said Froese.
Retaining $500,000 from land owners to move the OCP process faster along is legal and above board, said Froese. In fact, those monies would have been returned to the land owners had the plan been approved.
But the public was outraged, packing open houses, and filling council chambers, very angry with the process and how it the land owners influenced the plan. Despite this, Froese did support adoption of the revised OCP, as did Ward.
But the majority of council didn’t and voted the plan down on March 31.
“The perception was that developers were controlling the process,” said Froese. “Mayor and council can’t influence a plan but clearly that situation showed us we need to better engage the public in processes like this.” Froese said the developers who put in the $500,000 didn’t get their money back.
If re-elected, he plans to create a task force on public engagement, bringing in local experts and community to review development planning.
But Green maintains the real issue should be why Froese voted in favour of the updated Brookswood neighbourhood plan “in the face of such opposition from the public.”