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Council backtracks to previous position on controversial condo

April 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Kira Wronska Dorward

The ongoing debate surrounding the Beeton condominium development continued to rage at Monday’s Council meeting.

The issue, which has been under debate for the last month, was discussed again at length from the perspectives of Council, residents, and the developer, whose lawyer, Amber Stewart, was again on hand to tackle arguments made by the public.

Residents began the evening’s discussion with the first speaker displaying extensive photos he had taken to demonstrate the existing state of shadow impact and the treeline, one of the most prominent articles in the debate.

“Tonight I’m going to bring you facts…not like you heard on March 8,” he said.

He then went on to summarize figures relative to the four-storey development (plus underground parking garage), which, at 80+ units a hectare, is more than double the medium-density requirements as outlined by the province. This makes it a high-density application in reality, with developers getting “more bang for their buck”, as another member of the public mentioned.

His photos of the existing treeline, which at the previous meeting Stewart had assured the public would provide privacy for existing homes, seemed to support the public’s belief that the treeline and its shadow effect is insufficient to provide the desired privacy to residents in their backyards.

“I believe they’re going to be looking at me, and I’m going to be looking at them,” he summarized.

He went on to claim that the shadow impact of the proposed four-storey building would have a “detrimental effect on 20 homes…you’ll see how intolerable and unacceptable this abomination is, especially if you had it straddling your property, depriving you of nature and nature’s most important gift: sunlight.” He asked that the application, in a reversal from Council’s previous decision, be denied “as you can see from proof, not speculation or fear-mongering.”

Resident David White then took the podium, as he has at previous meetings, to speak passionately against the development, asking, “What kind of community do you want to live in? I know for myself that I moved to Beeton for a clean and safe environment for myself and my two children.” He went on to state that after consulting his fellow residents and neighbours, “everybody bordering this development plan does not want it…they would rather see housing built there instead, not a four-storey monstrosity with everybody looking into our gardens.”

Addressing the proposed underground parking garage, White emphasized that “underground parking is not an option in Beeton. We are built on swampland…the water issue needs to be addressed before any development can be considered. Are we going to end up with flooded basements when they try and dig this garage?”

He added, “I am appalled at Ms. MacIntyre’s scare tactics and comments about potential industrial zoning”- referring to a point made by the Councillor and the developer’s lawyer about the imminent possibility of the designated site being included within an industrial zoning land use classification.

White continued to emphasize that the “impact on the quality of life for a tax-paying resident who deserves to come home to a nice place to live”, ultimately stating that “trees do not completely block out sunlight. Solid buildings do.” He concluded by saying, “We hope Council will not allow our town to become unsafe and overcrowded. We are definitely one in a million, and we want to stay that way.”

A third resident took the podium to reinforce the unpopularity of the proposed development. “It’s upsetting to think that a 60 foot condo would be a natural fit,” he began, referring to the province’s guidelines that state that new infrastructure must be compatible with previously existing structures. “It’s one move farther to eliminate the charm of this town.”

The resident went on to criticize the developer for buying historic railroad lands and proposing to turn the surrounding area it into a private trail for residents. This, he said, demonstrated how the developer “didn’t really know Beeton.”

He also addressed the issue of traffic impact, with the proposed condo being “right at the corner of an already dangerous four-way stop” and pointing out that the intersection had flooded the previous weekend, demonstrating its unsuitability for the building site.

At this point in the meeting, counsel for the developer took to the podium to defend her client’s position.

“I think it’s safe to say that these plans and numbers have been vetted and peer-reviewed by your staff”, a point to which she returned several times. She went on to point out that the proposed height of the building, 15.3 metres, was eight metres below the maximum of 23 metres, and that the possibility of industrial rezoning of the site was “not a scare tactic. [It]…could be rezoned tomorrow,” with a much larger scale and building footprint than was currently being proposed for the condominium.

As for shadow impact, Stewart argued it was negligible, and affected resident’s properties for “only a very brief period of the day, when the shadows touch the buildings on the adjacent lots…this is a time when shadow impacts are reasonable.” She continued that the developers have been considerate of residents and that shadow impact had “been minimalized through well-thought out site design” and a thorough peer-review process. This did not appease residents, who made audible comments throughout Stewart’s presentation.

As far as traffic impact, Stewart argued that the study done by her clients went above and beyond what was required, and demonstrated a negligible impact. Concerning the water table and flooding issues that could be affected by the building of the underground parking garage, Stewart stated “the extent of studies that have been done have demonstrated that this can be done without concern. My clients have worked extensively with staff…that makes this project economically feasible and marketable.”

Having had her say, Council gave their input.

Councillor Lacey accused the developers of having “totally lost their appeal” with the proposed project, although he did point out that a recent publication had named this “a desirable housing type…we see this as an option for down-sizing.”

Councillor MacLellan returned to the issue of building density, stating, “the developer has applied for medium density zoning, but has asked for many setback exceptions…visually, these [condos] will stand out like a sore thumb…this development in its current form is not compatible…I’m asking Council to stand up for our residents, especially our residents, advocate for a community that makes sense, and a continuation of that through LPAT…let that be my motion.”

Her words were greeted with enthusiastic applause by residents.

Councillor Harrison-MacIntyre referred back to the closed meeting Council had held in consultation with their solicitor previously, which had caused them to reverse their decision on the proposal.

She said the motion put forward by Councillor MacLellan “would be contradictory to what was discussed in closed session,” although she was unable to elaborate why.

Mayor Milne alluded to instructions Council had received from their solicitor about what could happen at the LPAT tribunal, and said ultimately, “whether we support or deny [this motion], at the end of the day this decision will be up to LPAT.”

This upset residents, who asked if it was truly out of their and Council’s hands. Staff responded that residents were entitled to apply to become a party at the hearing, but only what was on the written record would be taken into consideration, and even then only “technical, narrow” issues on which LPAT would then make a decision, namely issues outlined by the provincial government on consistency and conformity.

“It’s a difficult process with LPAT,” commented staff. “It’s not a happy process.”

Staff reminded those present that only the tribunal decided who could attend the hearing and act as witnesses. “It’s bizarre, but the rest of us just get to argue on the written record.”

Council then approved a motion to have their solicitor attend the hearing, with Councillor Sainsbury commenting, “It’s not going to be easy to argue this case, that’s for sure.”

Moving on Councillor MacLellan’s motion, Council again voted to overturn their previous decision to support the development, returning the decision made on March 4.


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