The battle of the planning experts continued in the final day of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing in Kincardine.
Held Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 27-28, at the municipal administrative centre, the hearing was the result of an appeal brought forward by developer Tom Kerr against the Municipality of Kincardine which refused a zoning bylaw amendment for a proposed development west of the Willow West subdivision at Fraser Drive and Kincardine Avenue.
The first day was a long and tedious outline of the proposal presented to Kincardine council in March, 2017, which was a revised application from the one presented in January, 2017. It would rezone the north portion to R3 from R1, to allow for the construction of a five-unit row townhouse dwelling, as well as a detached accessory structure (four-bay garage), and a semi-detached dwelling unit on the south side adjacent to Kincardine Avenue.
The second day of the OMB hearing was an opportunity for both sides to present their planning experts who faced off on their opinions of the project.
About a dozen people watched as chairman S. Tousan presided over the proceedings, with solicitor Erroll Treslan as counsel for Kerr, and solicitor Tammy Grove-McClement as counsel for the municipality.
Prior to the expert testimony, two residents of Willow West were allowed to speak.
Debbie Pelloquin said the subdivision residents have concerns about this development because the facts presented are not exactly clear. For example, she said, the three semi-detached units along Fraser Drive, which have already been approved and are being built, are now expected to be quadraplexes, with secondary suites already built on the back before the units are ever occupied.
Another concern, she said, is that the sidewalk built along Fraser Drive was supposed to be on the west side. Unfortunately, it is on the east side so the children have to cross Fraser Drive to get to the bus stop, as do pedestrians wanting to walk downtown along Kincardine Avenue.
“Fraser Drive isn't just the primary access to our subdivision,” she said, “it's the ONLY access. Council recognized the danger at this intersection and refused the application.”
Treslan argued that anyone in the current subdivision can add a secondary suite. “You're worried about the increased traffic of five townhouses?” he asked. “That would be an additional 10 cars.”
“No, I'm concerned about the impact of the entire development,” replied Pelloquin. “Those three semi-detached units have no occupants yet, and at least one is going to be a four-plex.”
The chairman noted that secondary suites still require notice to the municipality, and a building permit.
Jennifer Hunsburger then came forward and presented information from her husband, Jamie, indicating that one house on Duncan Place (behind the proposed development) has been sold and another is for sale, as is one across the street from the development on Fraser Drive.
Hunsburger then gave her presentation, stressing her concern about the increased traffic on a short piece of road along Fraser Drive to Kincardine Avenue which is an arterial road with a speed limit of 60 km/h.
“A planner's job is to look at property development based on density, footprints and provincial mandates,” she said. “Some of those things are best suited to more urban developments than rural ones. Council does not have to follow its planner's recommendations.
“Council members had many, many E-mails, letters and calls with concerns brought to them. They heard our concerns, both on paper and by listening, weighed and evaluated them based on their knowledge of the town by living and working here, and decided that our concerns were valid. They considered both the safety aspect and compatibility to a family subdivision that already has high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and decided the current proposal is not the best land use.”
Treslan argued that adding five accessory suites to the current residences would add no more traffic than the current proposal.
“You're obviously not listening to me,” retorted Hunsburger. “The current residential lots are spread out. This proposed development is right at the corner of the only entrance and exit to our subdivision.”
TESTIMONY FROM DEVELOPER'S PLANNING EXPERT
The remainder of the morning was taken up with testimony by Ron Davidson of Owen Sound, expert witness for the developer, who maintained the proposal is good land-use planning.
He stressed that it meets the minimum requirement of 15 units per hectare as outlined in the Bruce County Official Plan. He also emphasized that the density is no different than any of the surrounding residential units, including the semi-detached across the street on Fraser Drive, and the townhouse units along Kincardine Avenue. Given these neighbouring developments, the proposal is also compatible with the neighbourhood, he added.
Under cross-examination by Grove-McClement, Davidson said the county Official Plan is not accurate, regarding the hazard land, so it is not taken literally; he concentrated on the mapping in the Kincardine zoning bylaw.
Grove-McClement argued that Mollie Kuchma, who prepared the original planning report, calculated density using different figures to what Davidson used. “Then I disagree with Ms. Kuchma,” he said.
Despite the discrepancy over calculations and density figures, Grove-McClement pointed out that the Official Plan states “where appropriate,” the minimum density must be met. “That does not automatically mean the developer is going to get it, just because the density is okay,” she said.
“I agree,” said Davidson.
TESTIMONY FROM MUNICIPALITY'S PLANNING EXPERT
After lunch, the cross-examination ended, and Grove-McClement introduced George Belango of London as the municipality's planning expert.
He pointed out that the development is proposed on an unusual-shaped lot and he had trouble understanding why that was until he checked the history of this particular property.
Belango said he reviewed the current proposal and wondered why the neighbours were not consulted, given that it had changed from January to March, 2017.
“You have to consider the compatibility and whether this is the suitable location for this development,” he said. “This harpooning in behind a residential development is not appropriate.”
After reviewing the Bruce County Official Plan, the Kincardine Official Plan and the Kincardine comprehensive zoning bylaw, and drawing up his own density calculations for the neighbourhood, Belango said the townhouse units are not compatible, there are gaps in the site statistical information, the development does not take into account the character of the surrounding area, there is no buffering or suitable landscaping, and high-density development should be closer to a commercial area.
Under cross-examination by Treslan, Belango said he has never seen a townhouse development that did not have an entrance onto a municipal street. “If the townhouses exited onto a street, I would have no issue with them,” he said.
Treslan then asked Belango what he would put on that piece of property if this development doesn't work.
“We're not dealing with options here,” argued Grove-McClement.
The chairman agreed. “You can't ask him to come up with a plan on the spot,” he said.
Treslan pressed Belango to state what exactly is the problem between the row townhouses and the single family dwellings to the north.
“All the residents will see is a high wall,” Belango said. “It's a box which blocks their view.”
“So, in your planning opinion, the north portion of the subject property should be developed in the same manner (as the south portion semi-detached dwelling)?”
“What a novel idea,” said Belango. “Build a single family home with an entrance off Kincardine Avenue. This small site is not intended for this kind of development. How does it improve the neighbourhood? You want to shoehorn more townhouses here like the ones on Kincardine Avenue which are poorly-designed.”
In response to questions from the chairman, Belango said more public input is required before any development proceeds on the subject property. He emphasized that the proposed development is neither suitable for the site nor compatible with the neighbourhood.
Given the late hour, the chairman agreed to take written responses from counsel. Treslan was to have his submission to the OMB by Oct. 6, with the response from Grove-McClement by Oct. 13, and the reply from Treslan by Oct. 20.
Following that, the OMB will render a decision.