The public will get to have its say if a parcel of land at the centre of an angry confrontation between Rob Ford and a Toronto Star reporter is sold to the Toronto mayor.
The Toronto and Region Conservation Area executive committee voted on Friday to defer a final decision on the fate of the strip of land next to Ford's home until the issue has been studied further. Staff will issue a report on the matter in June.
If the executive committee votes then to sell the land to Ford, the public will have to be consulted. The issue will then also go to a meeting of the TRCA at large for a final vote.
Staff members said Friday that they can't ever recall the agency selling parkland to a private homeowner based on security concerns.
Ford wants to buy the publicly owned parkland next to his Etobicoke home and build a fence around it.
An agent speaking on behalf of Ford said the fence is needed because of past intrusions by members of the public. Ford has also said that he wanted to build a fence to ensure the safety of his two young children, who often play in his front yard.
The hearing comes two days after Ford angrily confronted Toronto Star city hall reporter Daniel Dale behind his home Wednesday at around 8 p.m. Dale said he was there because he was researching the possible sale of the TRCA land, which contains a few mature trees, to the mayor.
Ford questioned reporter's motives
Ford accused the Star of harassment and claims Dale stood on a pair of cinder blocks located beyond his back fence while snapping photos of his house. Dale denied this, and Ford said he had no idea why Dale was behind his house, when the parcel of land the journalist was investigating was on the other side of his home.
"Why are you at the cinder blocks taking pictures back here when the property is a hundred yards, a football field away from here?" Ford said in an interview with CBC News.
A map provided by the TRCA shows that the parcel of land Ford wants to acquire is adjacent to his home on the northeast side. Dale was on the southeast side of the house when he was confronted by the mayor.
Dale told reporters that he had done nothing wrong, was on public land, and didn't come within 10 feet of the mayor’s property. He said he wasn't entirely clear exactly which parcel of land the mayor wanted to buy, and that was a part of the reason he was in the area of the mayor's home.
Dale said he took photos from behind Ford's house to better understand the type of fencing the mayor and his family had around their home.
"Because in their letter to the [conservation authority], they had said the reasons they need to buy this land … was that it would allow them to build a better security fence,” Dale told reporters Thursday.
He said the mayor pursued him aggressively, and had his fist cocked. Fearing for his safety, Dale dropped his cellphone and voice recorder and fled.
Dale has said Ford's public statements about the incident are not "accurate or honest."
The TRCA was set up in the wake of Hurricane Hazel with the aim of protecting the environment and the nine watersheds in the Toronto region. Board members include representatives from Toronto, Peel, Durham and York regions.
The parcel of land Ford wants to buy is completely outside the nearby Humber River flood plain, said the TRCA.