This week marked the second time in recent months Sidney pulled a complete 180 on important decisions that affect its residents. Both came in response to legal challenges to the council’s decisions.
The first came after council, in an in camera meeting, terminated the Sidney Business Association’s contract to run the popular summer market. The SBA hired lawyer L. John Alexander to enforce that same contract, which states the town must give six months’ notice to terminate, except in extreme cirumstances. On May 14, Mayor Larry Cross announced the SBA could have its market back. (On July 4, the town issued the SBA with that six months’ notice.)
Now, after a series of protests, a group of Sidney residents hired the same lawyer to challenge the town’s zoning bylaw adopted June 11. Alexander in his petition said residents could be entitled to financial compensation because of how the bylaw nixes their ability to redevelop their own land.
In one sense, the town may be doing the right thing in bowing to the legal challenges. It could be saving Sidney taxpayers hundreds of thousands in legal bills down the road. Mayor Cross isn’t afraid of confrontation – he’s proven that at council meetings where these same anti-zoning bylaw residents became verbally aggressive.
Residents will recognize that if they don’t like the town’s policies, they might get their way with a legitimate legal argument. The town might see more of these in the future.
Further, we question whether the town rushed to these decisions. Was due diligence missed on both occasions, with councillors and staff not fully checking into the real consequences of their actions?
In future, Sidney council and staff would be wise to ensure they know what they’re getting into before the next legal challenge forces them to retrace their steps.