Planning Advisory Committee listens to delegations over four hours – Application

Saugeen Shores Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) listened to several delegations over a four-hour long meeting on Thursday, August 11th.

PAC is made up of two members of Council, Diane Huber and Mike Myatt (Cheryl Grace alternate Council), and three members of the public, Pat O’Connor (Chair), Marcel Legault and William (Bill Streeter).

Two main applications that require zoning By-law changes resulted in presentations both by planners of the developments and by those who have concerns about them.

The first application dealt with a proposed multi-unit development in Southampton north of the Saugeen River on what is a significant woodlot bordering on protected wetlands.

                                                                   Significant Woodland

According to County Planner, Leah Barrie, Bruce County is the approval authority when it comes to sub-division developments.   “This is a mandatory public meeting that has been delegated to PAC.  We don’t often have plans for condominiums that come before PAC but this is an opportunity to bring details before the public and have a comprehensive discussion so that the Planning staff can take back recommendations by PAC to the County before making its decision.  When it comes to re-zoning, this committee (PAC) makes a recommendation that will go to Council. “

Barrie said that a preliminary recommendation has been made by Planning staff based on planning matters and reviews, as well as site visits and public comments received and, as a result of the discussion and the public meeting, it is entirely possible for Planning staff to provide a different recommendation. 

She added that there had been supporting documents submitted with the application.  According to Barrie, Block A of the application is being recommended with a ‘holding provision’ and a set of conditions that the town would like to see before submitting to the County. Barrie said that the County Planners agreed with the ‘holding’  on the multi-unit Block A as there are technical details to be worked out such as road extensions, services and, only once they have been ‘ironed out’ along with a suitable building type and style, as there are only a few types permitted by the zoning.  Then Council can then, and only then, get into the re-zoning.

The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) have identified four areas such as tree retention and conservation plan, water management plan and how to deal with the lands not included in the residential area for development. According to Barrie, all the conditions set out by the SVCA have been incorporated into the draft approval.

Barrie pointed out that five letters in total had been received from the public setting out concerns.  “In general, the concerns were about the significant woodlands and the high density style of housing (on Block A) and that multi-use residential was completely out of character with the area and not compatible.”

The By-law permits a variety of housing types up to 12 metres in an R3 zone including apartments, townhouses, single family homes, semis and duplex styles which are defined under multi-unit buildings.  Therefore, three of each of the types would qualify under Re zoning. 

 “The minimum low-density target for the block north of the single family homes is 12,” said Barrie.  “That number we calculate based on a number of factors and more importantly the town’s Official Plan.  However, the policy for residential developments on full services in an urban area is 15 units per hectare.  So, looking at the acreage available for development, 12 units is the base number.”

The environmental study was done to illustrate what lands, if any, are left for residential development.  The lands are presently designated residential with an environmental hazard designation on the woodland and wetlands to the east but adjacent lands have been designated by Council for residential development.  The zoning however, would first have to be amended to include residential development to comply with the Official Plan.  Should the application be approved, more lands would be protected than is currently protected.

She went on to say that the style of development is what is known as ‘in-filling’ and indicates lands that are developable.  There are two significant heritage features identified – significant woodlands and significant woodland wildlife and significant wetlands.

There are three additions in the draft approval report:

 1.   no development is allowed in area two or within 15 metres of a buffer zone

2.  within constraint areas, no negative impacts to hydrolgoy studies

3.  tree conservation plan be complete by a qualified person

“An archaeology assessment also had to be completed and there are four aboriginal sites located near the area and historical heritage that triggered the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to request additional investigation,” explained Barrie.”A Stage two survey however, identified no further investigation.  Therefore, in our opinion, this proposals agrees with the Provincial Policy Statement  (PPS).”

She said that according to the County Official Plan, Southampton is an area for development and that the town should be encouraged to adopt the local Official Plan that further defines policies unique to the municipality.  “There are all kinds of types of housing that should be contemplated and considered and a minimum of 15 units per hectare is the base requirement.” She also said that planners look at developments that are for the benefit of the public as a whole and not just an area, such as Southampton, but for Saugeen Shores.  The County apparently does provide for some latitude when it comes to the number of 15 units per hectare.”

The homes (seven) being proposed are larger than those that are existing in the area. There is an also an expectation to increase the road allowance and services to meet town standards and those would be worked out by a sub-division agreement.

“Providing all studies have been completed, I think this development are reasonable and appropriate for draft approval but that does not mean that it is plans are finalized,” said Barrie.  “The planning/public process is simply to identify that the plan is appropriate and reasonable and it is then up to the town to indicate it is satisfied with the proposal and we are satisfied this plan is appropriate and meets the natural heritage of the area.” 

The zoning By-law is being asked for at least 12 units are provided for and changed from R1 residential to R3 medium density. To read the entire report,   Planning Report_McMillan

Ron Davidson, Planning Consultant, pointed out that with the development of water and sewers north of the Saugeen River, the area has been opened up for development.

“There are two designations for this area under the Town’s Official Plan – residential and environmental hazard,” said Davidson.  “In Ontario, there is a big swing toward the environment and that has impacted development.  It has also resulted in a tree retention plan that restricts development.

The lands have been divided into two blocks … A and B.  Block A is to be a minimum of 19 units under the County and the Town Official Plan(s).  According to Davidson, the owner did not want this number of units but under the Official Plan, he apparently has to comply.  In addition, if again divided into two sections, two developments could be constructed.

Davidson said that there is going to be a lot more development north of the river now that services are there.  Block A will be in two phases which will require the road to be extended along with services.

Carolyn Day, a long-time member of the Source Water Protection Committee and resident in the area, asked if the land that was designated as significant woodland and wetlands was nothing more than “wallpaper, window dressing or just nice thoughts … is there any legal imperative?  In 2012, this area was declared a significant woodland and that doesn’t seem to make any difference.  Under the EIS (environmental impact study) there is to be no significant impact on wildlife but how can 19 new homes not have an impact?  It is supposedly residential and yet it is a wildlife area and wetland with deer, wild turkey, turtles, fox, etc.  Also, how is the water going to be impacted … is there going to be infilling or culverts?  Also, in the plan it says the surface is not to be disturbed so are there going to be no basements?  How are some of those environmental protections translated into this plan?

According to the planner (Davidson), “if there is deemed no impact on significant woodland then development shall proceed.”

The land was designated significant woodland under the 2012 study and under the town official plan there can be no development in significant woodland or wetlands but there can be development if an EIS is accepted.  He said that “… only 16 – 17 per cent of the land in question will be developed and that only a few deer will be replaced.  The province only looks at over-wintering area for deer.  Only a small number of snapping turtles will be affected and they will be in the water area to the east.   He also said that there “.. will be no impact on wildlife.”

When asked what is to stop ‘new home’ buyers from making environmental changes, the planner said that there can be lands designated ‘no touch’ marked by a ‘bullard’.  Barrie also said that zoning By-laws are enforceable by law and can be enforced through local By-law enforcement.

The question of hydrology (water) was also raised by Carolyn Day and how 10 houses on a property will not affect water flow when it comes to driveways, parking spaces, garages, etc.  

Day also questioned how the number 15 units was arrived at and pointed out that ‘in-filling’ does not include forests, it is about building between existing buildings.  “Can we not put something into the Official Plan that relates to common sense?  When the first property there was developed the SVCA was against it so why are they now approving so many more units going in there.  I know it’s about money but why do we have to put into the middle of a woodland a multi-unit development that the owner says he does not want?  Can we not make this sensible instead of bureaucratic?

Barrie said that SVCA and Municipal staff had the opportunity to look at it.  Quantity and quality of water is a municipal and provincial concern and, therefore, a stipulation is for storm water management.

Town Council approval and SVCA approval, according to Barrie, are a prerequisite.  If an owner does not want to develop and lot then it stays undeveloped.  “We speak with members of the public and there are several definitions of ‘in-filling’ and it is based on property lines.”

Resident, Cynthia Everest, said she represents four area property owners who chose to move to the area because of the natural beauty and wildlife. “Deer Run is named for a reason – because 20 – 30 deer use the corridor regularly.  Our major concern is a mult-unit three story structure that is so out of character and out-of-sync for that area, that it is ludicrous.  This is a wooded area, quiet and serene with cottages and homes of residents who respect the environment and the wildlife and to stick a monstrosity like that in the centre of a woodland is distressing to say the least.  Whatever type of development, there has to be common sense.  We’ve learned a lot here tonight about higher density and I suspected that was the reason behind this, but it makes no sense and is is inappropriate for this kind of structure.”

The issue was also raised about traffic given that, with seven homes and a 12 multi-unit building, if each resident had two cars it would mean 38 new vehicles in an area with only one exit where, in the summer tourist season, traffic is an issue anyway.
Peter Walker, whose family has owned considerable land in the area in question for some 85 years, said that if there is a large condo unit being planned, “there is no other word than obscene if this is allowed to happen.  This would be in the middle of a wooded area on the north side of the river that is serene where people buy property to get away from the madness of where they come from … to even think of someone wanting to build a three-storey apartment building with 12 units and if those residents had three or four kids.  I will never move. 

Peter Walker

“I have been in that cottage since my dad built it in 1948 but if I have to look at a building with balconies where people can hang their laundry, it will be the death of me.  I sold three lots to three sisters on Deer Run and went through hell and back between the Saugeen Valley Conservation authority and the road blocks, red tape and bureaucracy.  It was a 10 year process to sell those lots.  Between environmental studies and tree retention plans and locations, how on earth can someone build an apartment building.  It’s all well and good to say that a homeowner can’t change their yard but you only have to go up Deer Run and see what a resident did there.  He clear cut trees, built a pond and removed every single tree.  How did he get away with that?

Where is the tree retention plan for that big block? We’ve always referred to that as the ‘bunny path’ where there are deer feeding and to think that is going to be an apartment building and two lanes of traffic.  I hope by the wisdom of you people, that that is not going to happen.”

According to the planner, a tree retention area will be built down the middle of Block A and, therefore, it will actually be two building lots.

Barrie said that there has been no building type decided yet for this block.  

PAC public member, Bill Streeter, who lives in the area north of the Saugeen River, said that land values had always been depressed because it was known the land in question was ‘swampy’ Wetlands.  “From an investment standpoint, it was understood that development would not be widespread because it was wetlands there.  Our deer herds are increasing substantially and being adjacent to Saugeen First Nations, the deer know where they are safe and we see them all the time.  My principal land borders on First Nations land.  When I read all this paper work related to the application, it appeared to me that no one in the Province is taking the deer seriously at all.  Currently no mapping has been done in Bruce County.  In that area, we see groups of deer at 10 to 20 at a time.  Are there definitions for a deer yarding area or are there any identified north of the river.
There are 200 to 300 wooded acres and to not do the proper analysis to determine the number of deer and proceed with development without coming to grips with the volume of wildlife in the area is foolhardy.” 

Committee Councilor Mike Myatt said that, “This whole idea is absurd and I do not want to see townhouses or apartment building in that area.  I was involved in Community Services and have seen a lot of development and have seen a lot of back yards where there should be invisible fencing not for dogs but for the humans.  Intentions are good and development happens but I’ve seen far too many times where development encroaches into those areas that are ‘no-touch’ zones.  This is a beautiful wooded area and it is so unfortunate that these wooded areas have to lead to development.  I can understand the seven residences and how they are meeting requirements and make sense but a multi-unit development is absurd and makes no sense. We talk about the town’s official plan and an amendment but we have to have a discussion around having seven lots developed and how we should not go anywhere near having an apartment building developed in this kind of area.  I am really stuck with this and I cannot understand how we are even thinking of this kind of development.”

Committee member and Councilor, Diane Huber, said that she also cannot understand an application that is incomplete and that names the area as greenfields when it is woodlands.  I am uncomfortable in voting for an R3 zoning when nothing is said about why these are here before us.  It also has a date of August 18th which I gather means that this will come before Council on that date and I understand that the County has approval authority so why are we receiving this that asks for R3 approval when we have absolutely no information on this and why is it saying 12 units minimum.  Also, why the big rush to do something now when the developer says this property may again be sold.  This does not match the character of the area.”

Barrie said that the developer/owner could ask for an amendment for an appeal to have fewer units.  According to Huber, everuthing written in offical documents referred to the importance of character.  Why is it a good decision to change from R1 to R3?  We would start the ball rolling at higher level than I am comfortable with.  As a developer wants to develop they should be able to come back here and present new plans.  The whole area is R1.”

“The R3 zone is interesting in that it allows a variety of housing types,” reaffirmed Barrie, “including three stories.  There is also the ‘cottage in the woods’ concept that is how to achieve density in what is considered a woodland.”

Huber asked where the number of 15 came from.  Initially the 15 units came from the County Plan and the County has decided that is what is appropriate for here (Southampton).

The owner said that they had started out with 80 ft. front lots but the Official Plan says that the owners are faced with the density requirements of the OP that is forcing them to come to an R3 provisioln for multi unit townhouse.  We would prefer single family lots but we have to live by the laws of the land and if you require 15 units per hectare then we have to give it to  you.Tell us what you want.  Do you want density or do you want something that will fit in with the community?”

The application was deferred by PAC and the owner, Michael McMillan said he wanted to consider all that was said at the public meeting before making a decision.