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Burlington discloses legal fees in OLT cases

Burlington discloses legal fees in OLT cases

The city of Burlington has spent $219,000 in legal and witness fees in the current term of council defending its positions on various development and zoning appeals that have gone to the Ontario Land Tribunal. The money spent represents costs incurred defending the city in more than two dozen cases. The fees disclosed only apply to cases where a settlement has been reached.

Burlington City Council last week unanimously approved waiving solicitor-client privilege to release the total amount of external legal and expert witness fees the City paid with respect to appeals before the provincial tribunal.

Burlington council has been under some criticism recently for excessive use of in-camera meetings and non-disclosure of routine information. It led to a sharp exchange at the recent council meeting between Councilor Shauna Stolte and Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. Stolte was censured for releasing some information that was discussed in camera. In her defence she declared that council lacks transparency. She initially announced she would not run for council again but recently has changed her mind,

Commenting on the vote to release the legal costs Mayor Marianne Meed Ward wrote in her newsletter, “this is an important step forward in transparency and a way to let the public know exactly how much of their tax dollars go towards defending the policies designed by City staff and approved by Council that reflect what our community wants when it comes to development and growth. I’m glad Council was unanimous in approving we waive privilege to release this information publicly.

“The Ontario Land Tribunal is an extremely inefficient tool that, in fact, gets in the way of building communities, particularly when appeal cases start back from the very beginning of the development process and its decisions are rarely reflective of a duly-elected Council’s decision and of the community’s vision for their city. It’s too slow and too expensive, and more and more Ontario municipalities are calling for a complete overhaul of the tribunal or its dissolution, including Halton Region.”

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