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Council wrestles with Bill 23 changes as sub-division re-zoning brings further multi-unit development

By Sharon Harrison
The Cork and Vine sub-division development plans in Wellington moved another step forward with the approval of a re-zoning of land to accommodate further residential development with 104 additional units.

A planning application to re-zone lands located north of the Millennium Trail, east of Consecon Street, to special urban residential type 3 (R3-70), met with council approval at Wednesday’s planning and development committee meeting.

An amendment to the zoning bylaw, as it pertains to the parking standards required for the two apartment buildings being proposed, put forward by councillor Phil St-Jean reducing the number of parking spaces from 1.5 to 1.25 per dwelling unit also passed.

“It will allow the applicant to get a few more units within the site, and is in compliance with some of the recent developments we have approved over the last couple of years,” said Matt Coffey, the County’s approvals coordinator.

A second amendment suggested by councillor Kate MacNaughton to further reduce the parking spaces to 1.1 spots per dwelling unit (for a saving of 12 additional spaces, for a total of 115 spaces) failed.

Michael Michaud, manager of planning, suggested another option to have more landscaping area would be to reduce the size of the parking spaces, which are currently 2.6 by 6 metres in size, and could go to 2.6 by 5.2 metres.

This application is the first major development planning application to come before the planning and development committee under the province’s new legislation (Bill 23), where the municipality and council have less control under the planning act changes.

The lands, owned by Lanarose Developments Limited, known as Cork and Vine (formerly Fields of Wellington), and specifically Block 15, were previously zoned open space (holding) (OS-H), and are currently vacant agricultural lands of about three acres in land area.

This parcel is immediately adjacent to lands known historically as the Fields of Wellington development proposal and are situated in an open area, with the Millennium Trail to the immediate south.

In his report to council, Coffey stated the purpose of the application is to permit the construction of a multi-unit development.

“The current OS zone was initially applied to the subject lands (Block 15) to accommodate an anticipated stormwater management facility,” stated Coffey.

He indicated that as all stormwater management in the detailed design phase has now been captured to be accommodated within Block 26 instead, it essentially frees up Block 15 for further development.

“With Block 15 no longer required to function as a stormwater facility, the applicant has requested the change in zoning to facilitate additional residential development.”

Coffey’s report indicates with the re-zoning of this portion of the sub-division (Block 15), a multi-residential development is proposed.

“The amended zoning by-law will result in a development that will provide a greater utilization of Block 15 within the former Fields of Wellington sub-division and encourage intensification through a higher density development.”

The report notes that land use patterns that provide for efficiency are encouraged within the provincial policy statement.

The development concept consists of two multi-unit, apartment-style residential buildings, accommodating a total of 104 units.

The R3-70 zone permits an apartment dwelling, retirement home, senior citizens housing complex, retail commercial establishment within an apartment dwelling, home business, and uses, buildings and structures accessory to the foregoing.

“We’ve provided a plan that provides a conceptual outline of what’s contemplated in the form of two buildings separated by open space, with a circular laneway,” said Ryan Guetter with Weston Consulting.

He said the buildings current are set back well from property lines, with a three-storey building on the west side, separated by amenity space and parking, and then a four-storey building further to the east, fronting onto West Street.

Coffey confirmed the building closest to Consecon Street would be three-storeys in height, with the building farthest away being four storeys.

Guetter said density would be placed closest to the southern end of the development near the Millennium Trail, accessible to West Street, but stressed this was a development concept and is not a site plan. so is subject to change.

A member of the public who has lived on Consecon Street for 23 years, Margaret McFetridge, expressed her concerns in person at the meeting.

“Fields of Wellington told us that they are going to put a couple of apartment buildings in, which would probably be right behind my property, but they would be low level,” said McFetridge. “How many floors are these apartment buildings going to be? How high are they going to go up? How high of a hedge can you put in to help us?”

Councillor Chris Braney enquired about the residences on Consecon Street that will back onto the proposed development, and asked about the type of landscaping design.

“Is there any plan to put something in place to alleviate any concerns they may have?” he asked.

Guetter said the concept sketch provides over nine metres setback to the building, noting the building doesn’t occupy the full length of the lot line interface.

He said there are mature trees that exist in the lots of some of the dwellings, but confirmed that as part of the site plan process, they would put a landscape together that would deal with fencing and landscaping.

Councillor Janice Maynard asked whether the apartments would be rental apartments or condominium-owned apartments, where Guetter said that was to be determined as they were only dealing with the unit type at this zoning stage.

St-Jean asked about EV (electric vehicle) chargers and whether EV charging stations would be incorporated at the apartment blocks.

“As we see more and more of these higher density developments happening; we know 20 percent of the vehicles on the road right now are electric vehicles and we are going to see a very large increase in that in our community,” said St-Jean.

Guetter said it was something they had a direct commitment to, and a consideration was trends and driver preferences.

Maynard spoke to the new provincial policy changes, the lack of power council and the County now have with new planning applications, where extensive discussion ensued around the horseshoe on how to adequately accommodate and address the concerns of residents, as well as accommodating developers plans within the community.

“Considering the recent changes imposed on us by the provincial government, this council will not see the site plan and will not have input into any changes that we’d like to see on site plan, so can you explain what powers you have as staff to ensure that these concerns are addressed, if any,” expressed Maynard.

Coffey confirmed they have powers under section 41 of the planning act which allows applicants to meet minimum requirements for a site plan application.

“Following that, all applications get circulated internally and externally for comment, and staff have the ability to make comments and suggestions to the applicant, and ultimately make a recommendation for approval to our director and the CAO through our delegated authority process,” said Coffey. “So, there are mechanisms in place to get feedback and relay those comments back to the developer”.

Michaud said the planning department’s job is to take those comments, and decide what’s the best for the particular project and particular area.

“We try and make the best site work available, whether it’s increased setbacks or increased landscaping, access locations, that all comes into play,” he said.

Maynard said she did trust staff to do their due diligence, but was concerned that council won’t see the application come back.

“To let people have some confidence that the recommendations or suggestions that you make to the applicant, that you can uphold those, and that they are not merely suggestions, but they are requirements,” said Maynard.

St-Jean also raised the changes the provincial government has made, “basically taking away a lot of our input, specifically around site plans”.

“If a developer comes to us and says we are planning to do the following, and you’ve heard input from the public, do we have really any of the wording to tell them to change their site plan and demand it and make it stick?” asked St-Jean, adding, “I want clarity and I believe the public deserves clarity as well.”

Coffey confirmed that every site plan has to be reviewed by staff.

“We are not going to recommend a site plan we are not in agreement with, so ultimately staff have to make a recommendation of approval before they can enter into a site plan agreement with the County,” said Coffey.

Councillor David Harrison asked if there is an appeal process for the neighbours, where Coffey said there wasn’t as it is limited to a developer-driven appeal.

“That hardly seems satisfactory,” said Harrison.

“What rights do they have to say no?” added MacNaughton.

“We knew this was going to come, and this is the first major one we have had in front of us, and I think I know how disappointed a lot of us around the table are with this Bill 23,” said Braney. “As far as I am concerned, it a dictatorship bill that really takes our powers away.”

He said a way around this for council is to have good community conversations and to partner with the developer.

“They have been good to deal and I do want to put some faith in that process because I really think that’s the only way we are going to succeed as a County, to try to answer many of the questions and scenarios many of the residents will have with the developments moving forward.”

Coffey noted the subject lands are currently designated as village residential area and park and open space area under the Wellington urban centre secondary plan.

“The village residential area and park and open space area designations permit the development of a residential sub-division in accordance with the provisions of OPA 83 and the approved neighbourhood concept plan,” states the report.

“The lands are designed within the urban centre under the official plan, and under secondary plan neighbourhood development area, this was the subject of a series of approvals granted for the large assembly of lands and it permits what’s contemplated here in terms of residential uses,” said Guetter.

The secondary plan permits a mix of residential units in new neighbourhood development, including single detached, semi-detached, duplex, triplex, townhouses, and apartments.

“The proposed development will continue to add to the unit types within the development and will result in potentially 104 new units within the village.”

The apartment units will be added to the sub-division by extending the previously approved R3-70 zone which is the current zoning for the adjacent lands to the north (Block 54).

“The added multi-unit development proposed for the subject land will add to the density within the vicinity which includes Blocks 54 (80 units) and Block 55 (60 units),” states Coffey.

“This density is considered appropriate as it is close to amenities, such as the parkland proposed, the Millennium Trail, and access to Wellington Main Street.”

While Coffey noted a lack of water and waste water servicing at the site currently, and the need for a development agreement that would establish funding to permit the construction of the necessary infrastructure upgrades, he said the site is anticipated to be serviced early in phase one and will contribute to housing relief efforts.

In order to facilitate this development, it is anticipated that the extension of West Street into the sub-division will be warranted.

“By connecting this link, additional traffic that would otherwise be forced to Consecon Street will be diverted and provide access to the Millennium Trail, Niles Street and Wellington Main Street.”

The extension of West Street will be implemented through the future site plan control agreement for Block 15 as an off-site cost to the developer.

Planning documents for the Cork and Vine (Block 15) re-zoning application can be found on the County’s website.

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