Wellesley eliminates its committee of adjustment, with councillors taking on those duties

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Committee of adjustment chair Dennis Weber speaks out against the township’s plan to have council take over the role, discussed Tuesday night in Crosshill. [Liz Bevan / The Observer]
Wellesley Township’s committee of adjustment is no more after councillors decided to take on the responsibility themselves.

The committee of adjustment typically deals with minor variances to the township’s zoning bylaw, including the likes of property severances, rights of ways and easements. As in other municipalities, the current committee is made up of citizens appointed to the position. Meeting this week, councillors opted to disband the committee and assume its duties.

The current members of the committee didn’t go down without a fight, however. With council meeting Tuesday night to discuss the changes, chair Dennis Weber and co-chairEugene Bersenas made it clear they weren’t happy.

Bersenas called the move disrespectful and unwarranted after the work he and the rest of the members had put into their work on the committee. From his perspective, it appeared as though committee members were being pushed out unceremoniously.

“I am appalled by the manner in which this whole situation is coming forward. That the services of the committee of adjustment is dissolving is abhorrent,” he told councillors. “We have volunteered our time and effort to the township and we are deserving of respect. I don’t think that is asking too much. We are committed, and to be shot down like this is not right.”

The committee was only notified of the upcoming change a few days before the meeting, and Weber said the current committee should have had a chance to review the township’s reasoning ahead of time.

“I have to express my dismay that we were not notified of this meeting well ahead of time, especially with such an important topic. You are turfing us, essentially,” he said. “We weigh our decisions carefully and if there are concerns, I would love to hear them. This is an important topic.”

The committee met on Mar. 8, with township staff in attendance, but weren’t informed of the intention to dissolve.

Coun. Herb Neher felt Bersena’s and Weber’s feelings were justified.

“I think we owe these people more professionalism and there should have been sometime when we give them the information, give them a month or two to look at it, and come back to council,” he said. “I have a real problem with the process on this. Regardless of what decision we make, I think owe these people something, at least give them the opportunity to make their case as well.”

The mayor and township staff didn’t see it the same way, however.

“Professionalism is a two-way street,” said Mayor Joe Nowak, adding that the opportunity was presented to the committee to have a discussion on the matter.

CAO Rik Louwagie confirmed the chance was there, and it was an opportunity missed.

“I would just like to note that I requested a meeting with Eugene and he declined without the whole committee present. Then we had a meeting with everyone, and it was flatly said that we would not be discussing these issues,” he explained.

Councillors then voted to absorb the duties of the committee of adjustment into their regular duties.