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Stanley supporters forging ahead with minor variance application

Supporters say they have case law supporting minor variance, with one friend noting, 'They're torturing her, a senior citizen'
Jo-Anne Miller hugs Stanley at her Tiny Township home.

Supporters trying to keep Stanley the goat in Tiny Township have opted to apply for a minor variance after all.

With the township declaring earlier this month it wouldn’t support going that route after its lawyer noted the variance isn’t “minor” in nature, a planner working with Jo-Anne Miller’s supporters on a pro bono basis has researched and found case law substantiating the use of applying for a minor variance with the township’s committee of adjustment to allow Stanley to continue living with Miller.

“We’re still pursuing a minor variance,” said Michela Mucciaccio, Miller’s primary representative in the case, which came to light after someone complained, saying Stanley doesn’t belong in an area zoned shoreline residential.

(To read the original story, click here.)

And to that end regarding the minor variance, Mucciaccio has sent a letter to the two senior municipal employees involved in the case (chief municipal law enforcement officer Steve Harvey and planning and development director Shawn Persaud) to inform them of the group’s intentions to continue pursuing the less costly option over a formal zoning amendment.

“We were under the impression they would allow the minor variance application,” said Mucciaccio, one of several friends helping Miller after the complaint to the township about Stanley last month.

“But they did a complete 180-degree flip on it. Shawn Persaud didn’t even give the planner a chance to present the case law.”

The difference in cost between the two avenues is roughly $4,000. The minor variance would have run under $1,000, but the application fee for a zoning amendment is $4,000, plus an additional $1,000, and also requires a planning justification report and a new survey of Miller’s modest quarter-acre property.

In her letter to Harvey and Persaud obtained by MidlandToday, Mucciaccio pointed out that during an earlier meeting with Persaud, “from all (his) verbal and facial indications, (he) appeared to be receptive to the alternative resolution procedure, albeit he had no apparent experience in that field.

“Having said that, and to give him comfort that the committee of adjustment has jurisdiction, Mr. Persaud requested the team provide him with case law, plus previous Ontario Municipal Board decisions on the subject matter, to help give him a procedural and permissive ‘comfort zone.’”

Mucciaccio goes on in the letter to note their planner found case law supporting the group’s position going back to 1977 along with relevant Ontario Municipal Board decisions dating to the 1980s.

“With utmost respect to Mr. Shawn Persaud, an advisor helping Jo-Anne Miller’s team has decades of experience, exposure, knowledge regarding the powers and jurisdiction, etc., of a committee of adjustment,”  Mucciaccio wrote.

“In addition, the advisor has been qualified hundreds of times as an expert witness at tribunal hearings. To that end, Mr. Shawn Persaud may well be disadvantaged — but there will be no more on that matter."

After being told the township wouldn’t accept a minor variance application, meanwhile, Mucciaccio said Harvey asked if the group could submit the rezoning application by June 27. Mucciaccio told him that wasn’t enough time, and Harvey offered to extend the deadline to July 29 at 9 a.m. to submit their documentation.

Neither Harvey nor Persaud responded to a request for comment by publication time.

The friends group came together to support Miller because they realize the important role Stanley serves in helping her battle depression, and plans to continue the fight. To that end, they’ve established a GoFundMe to raise the necessary dollars to help Miller keep Stanley. There is also a petition, which now sits at more than 7,500 signatures.

During a recent visit, Miller told MidlandToday this has been a difficult time for her.

“I’m not very good, really,” said Miller, who has had Stanley as her pet since rescuing him last year as a six-week-old kid from a dairy farm near Craighurst since male goats would normally be slaughtered.

“He’s a good pet and people love him. This has just been a nightmare. I haven’t been going on many walks.”

Miller said she suspects she knows who lodged the complaint since there’s only been one time anyone has yelled at her while walking Stanley along the beach. And shortly after that incident, a Tiny bylaw officer arrived at her home to deliver the notice that Stanley must leave since Miller is prohibited from operating a “hobby farm” on her property.

Ever since Miller adopted Stanley, the two have been inseparable and have become a popular sight for both children and adults living in the Cawaja Beach area. Stanley’s friends include a wide array of dogs with whom he sometimes lies as they peacefully take in some sunshine while watching the world go by.

“Never, ever did I think there would be a problem,” Miller said. “There’s been one complaint and it’s not like those from the township had never seen him before.”

But besides being Miller’s best friend, Stanley serves as an emotional support animal that aids Miller with her depression. She also has a doctor’s note to that effect, but the township has chosen not to accept it.

Added friend Anna Aggio: “Separating them would be devastating for both of them. Stanley’s been fully domesticated like a dog. They’re torturing her, a senior citizen.”


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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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