Less Is Not Always More - Mark Grimes and Section 37 Contributions

In today’s ‘how not to city council and still hold public office for over a decade’ news, I give you
Ward 6 Lakeshore-Etobicoke councillor, Mark Grimes, first elected in 2003.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpDJNOKG3ys Mark Grimes EY8.1 Council July 12, 2011.
What am I looking at, you ask. Basically, Councillor Grimes putting forth a ‘technical
amendment’ that states the builder of a condo development in the councillor’s ward will pony up
$150,000 in Section 37 money to the community via the councillor. Section 37 money? A
negotiated amount a developer agrees to pay in return for variances to their development.
Variances? Essentially, aspects (usually increases) of the building that are not in accordance
with city by-laws. More stories, higher density. Building by-law indulgences, let’s call them, in
which money is offered up to compensate for any negative consequences the variances might
have on nearby communities.
In a nutshell.
So, on the surface, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about what Councillor Grimes is doing in
the above video. Except for the fact, as the CBC report points out, what the ‘technical
amendment’ the councillor successfully pushed through did was reduce the amount of Section
37 money the developer would pay from $250,000 to $150,000. No, it didn’t, the councillor told
the CBC in an email response. “There was never an agreement reached with the applicant for
$250,000 in Section 37 cash contribution,” the councillor wrote. “I recommended the $250,000
to try and negotiate the maximum benefit for the community.”
Again, except the CBC flags a final staff report sent to the Etobicoke York Community Council a
month before the councillor’s city council ‘technical amendment’ that states, right there in black
and white (page 11), “It had been agreed by the owner that they will provide a cash contribution
in the amount of $250,000 for local parks improvements as their Section 37 contribution.”
In essence, the local councillor (Mark Grimes in this case) has it in writing in a city staff report
that the owner of a proposed development has agreed to pay $250,000 in Section 37 money but
a month later introduces a ‘technical amendment’ reducing that contribution by $100,000.
Who does that?!
Let’s avoid going to the darkest corner of possibilities here. The potential shadiness of Section 37
transactions are always bubbling near the surface. “A shakedown”, then-mayor Rob Ford once
called Section 37 money. While wildly off the mark (as Rob Ford tends to be about almost
everything to do with governance), it’s difficult to fully justify the practice.
Follow the bouncing ball. Developer wants to build something not allowed by current city
planning by-laws. If the city doesn’t agree, the prospect of an OMB appeal going against it,
granting the developer free rein, always hangs over the proceedings. So negotiations begin to
arrive at some solution that makes nobody entirely happy but is something most can live with.
Part of the deal making involves money, a payment to, as I wrote earlier, compensate for any

negative consequences of the development might inflict on the community. Assuaging bitter
feelings.
A far from perfect way of doing business, obviously, with plenty of open space for behind closed
door unsavoriness. Moreover, it’s probably the least efficient or productive way to maximize the
community benefits from such projects. Section 37 never provides enough money to ultimately
offset the infrastructure stress these kinds of developments impose on communities like public
transit. Instead, the city has to be content with building parks and green space, occasionally a
library.
But it’s something. An unsatisfying solution to a highly problematic dynamic in terms of city
building. The best councillors make the best of a bad situation. If there’s been any genuine claim
of any sort of impropriety from a Toronto city councillor in terms of misusing Section 37, I don’t
know of one. There’s no reason to think anything different with Councillor Grimes and this case
of the disappearing $100,000.
The only conclusion I can arrive at, however, is hardly more heartening. “Councillor Grimes
purpose at City Hall,” Luca De Franco tweeted in reaction to the CBC story, “as he sees it —
aiding developers, even against the interests of Ward 6 residents.” That’s not corruption. It’s just
willful disregard of the people who voted for you.
— sadly submitted by Cityslikr https://afuitbs.com/2015/01/15/less-is-not-always-more/

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