Council questions municipal decision to challenge motion

Engineering Technologist Mark Ceppi speaking to the ORV by-law. March 6, 2017. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

In a rare event, municipal staff have challenged a decision that was approved by municipal council only a few months ago.

In August, council voted in favour of changing the speed limit on Eighth Line from 80 kilometres per hour to 60 km/h.

Soon after the motion was approved by council and the speed limit was set to change to 60 km/h, municipal staff held a public information session regarding the change.

Chatham-Kent Engineering Technologist Mark Ceppi said during the meeting they heard from a number of residents who claimed their input wasn’t asked for in regards to the speed limit change. He also said they found that lowering the speed limit did not solve any problems on the roadway and may have created a batch of new issues.

These findings led them to prepare a report which went in front of council on December 17, asking council to vote in favour of keeping the speed limit at 80 km/h.

It was a move that didn’t sit right with Councillor Trevor Thompson. He brought forward the original motion to decrease the speed after he said many residents had come to him with concerns of the increase of traffic on Eighth Line and the potential for accidents in an 80 km/h zone. He challenged municipal staff’s ability to work around a motion that council had already passed.

“I find this now to be more about a speed limit,” said Thompson. “The previous council passed this with a resounding majority, 11-7, with one councillor against it reaching out afterwards expressing his mistake in doing. So I’d ask that the decision of the previous council be honoured that this motion be voted down and the role of council to direct administration be upheld.”

Thompson never asked for a public information meeting to be held after his motion was approved and council never voted in favour of the municipality creating a follow-up report.

Councillor Carmen McGregor echoed Thompson’s frustration and questioned if this will become a regular practice of a motion coming back to council simply because the municipality didn’t agree with it.

“Is it normal procedure that after we make a motion for and give administration direction that they then go to public consultation after we’ve made a decision because they don’t like the decision they have given them? Is that normal practice?” asked McGregor.

Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire admitted that it was not a common move for administration to hold public information sessions after a motion had already been passed through council. He said he understood the pushback from council for questioning their decision.

“This was not just a matter of disagreeing. I think there were some real safety concerns,” Shropshire said.

Not all members of council were against the report. Councillor Mellissa Harrigan supported the recommendation and said she appreciated that a follow-up report was created to help council make data-driven decisions and help them put forward the best practices for the community.

The decision to keep the speed limit at 80 km/h was narrowly approved on Monday, passing 10-8.