By Ted McIntyre
When you’re passionate about your work, you rarely punch in and out from nine to five. Some, though, are never quite off the clock.
“I like to keep my phone on, because I wouldn’t be in business without my clients. So when the time suits them, I try to be available,” says Lyn Townsend. Whether as the proprietor of Townsend and Associates LLP, as an advocate for Ontario’s home builders or on a volunteer basis, Townsend’s devotion to the industry’s causes has been exemplary. Named the 2013 OHBA Member of the Year, Townsend, a member of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), was recognized for her hard work and dedication in providing legal assistance and advice on countless development and planning issues that affect OHBA. Her expertise, shared with associations that have included Durham Region, Greater Windsor, Simcoe County, Hamilton-Halton, London and Greater Ottawa over the past few years, has provided members with the knowledge and tools needed to forge ahead with community development and growth.
“Lyn has been a true leader and advocate for the industry,” says OHBA Chief Executive Officer Joe Vaccaro. “She has lent her invaluable talents to several local associations in addition to BILD and OHBA, helping them navigate sometimes complex and complicated legal processes.”
“Lyn has been around the home building industry and assisting with development charges for decades, so when we look for a solicitor to help us, she’s not only our association’s first pick,” notes Suzanne Mammel, Chair of the Development Council for the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association and senior project manager with A.J. Clarke & Associates, which provides surveying, planning and consulting engineering services throughout the Golden Horseshoe.
“When the HHHBA appealed the 2011 development charge, she assisted us, and we were able to negotiate a settlement without having to go to a hearing,” Mammel adds. “She’s very good at what she does, and when she tells you an answer, you know it’s right.”
Described during her award presentation as “one of our finest and most dedicated volunteers,” Townsend’s advocacy for the industry might actually ratchet up in the coming year as chair of an OHBA committee formed to address government consultations on development charges, parkland issues and Section 37, the provision of the Ontario Planning Act that allows density restrictions, a practice known as density bonusing.
Despite a schedule that has included numerous speaking engagements, Townsend didn’t see the award coming. “I’m so honoured. It was a complete and total surprise; you could’ve blown me over with a feather.”
The OHBA accolade, however, was not the only 2013 honour for Townsend, who was presented with the Ontario Bar Association’s 2013 Award of Excellence in Municipal Law in June. The success of her Oakville-based firm was also acknowledged when Townsend’s company was absorbed under the WeirFoulds LLP banner on Sept. 30. Both operations have ranked among the top planning and development firms in the GTA for years.
Her expertise is certainly valued by OHBA members as well. Regular meetings, phone calls and emails have addressed such topics as “what other municipalities are doing with their development charges, whether or not the government is going to be looking at the legislation, if I can give them some tips or advice on some of the issues that have been percolating, such as transit and hospitals, and generally what is happening in the industry.” But Townsend hardly begrudges the steady stream of inquiries. “I have just been so honoured over the years to be the person that they feel comfortable enough with and trust enough to call so that I can share some of the things I’ve learned over the years,” she says. “Development charges are getting worse, the impact on the homebuyer is getting worse and worse. So to the extent that I can contribute to that discussion, I am happy to do so.”
And what drives Townsend? “Part of my DNA is to give back,” she says. “But I learn a lot from people as well. And what I learn, I’m able to share with the clients I have retainers with. I’ve said to a lot of people that it makes me a better lawyer. I’m learning things that I wouldn’t always have the advantage to learn if I were not volunteering. But the primary motivation is to just give back.”
Acknowledged during her OHBA award presentation for “always maintaining a high degree of civility while effectively advocating for the industry,” Townsend suggests it’s the only way to conduct business. “I don’t think you make any progress by taking hardline positions with other people. It’s important to listen to what others have to say, to respect them and their points of view and to try to work toward solutions, as opposed to taking that hardline stance. I think it’s one of the things I’m best at in my job—building solutions.”