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Fawcett Avenue proposed sub-division deferred amid significant concerns

By Sharon Harrison
A crowded room of Fawcett Avenue area residents (and others) went home late after Wednesday evening’s planning and development committee meeting, knowing their voices had been heard, and hearing the proposed 85-unit sub-division for their neighbourhood will at least get a second look by staff, and hopefully the developer too.

After hearing concern-after-concern from members of the public and significant discussion a deferral motion proposed by councillor Kate MacNaughton was unanimously supported to defer the decision to approve an official plan amendment, draft plan of sub-division and zoning bylaw amendment application by Hilden Homes.

The issue of safety was paramount in comments and in the decision-making process, including the fact that Fawcett Avenue has just one access road for all traffic, whether vehicular or on foot, to get and in and out of the residential area.

Also addressed was the issue of safety of those walking Fawcett Avenue, which isn’t wide to begin with, and has no sidewalks (and has deep ditches in places). There were concerns expressed for children’s safety in particular, as well as other users, including seniors. As well, concern for the number of children waiting beside a busy County Road 49 for the school bus in the mornings.

Councillor MacNaughton said she wasn’t certain, the proposed development was the “right shape for this location.

“We are required by our secondary plan to consider the fabric of an existing neighbourhood and how a new development is going to impact the surrounding area, the surrounding built form, the surrounding neighbours, and we’ve heard that the impacts are great,” said MacNaughton. “My initial and most extraordinary point of concern is we are putting an awful lot of homes into an area that doesn’t have a secure exit in case of an emergency and that is a source of concern for me.”

Councillor Chris Braney spoke to the pockets of small communities in the County and how they are special.

“One thing that resonated with me, and made sense, and it’s the fabric of your community and what you are trying to protect, it’s what you value,” said Braney.

The deferral motion included the main points raised and discussed throughout the evening, where MacNaughton requested the application wait until an updated traffic impact study was received, that it have consideration for green space on-site instead of a financial parkland dedication (so an actual green space), and to wait until the tree management plan is available.

The project threatens 44 mature and endangered butternut trees as well as forest, habitat and wildlife.

She wanted the concerns of the community addressed to ensure safety, sidewalks and to explore a phased-approached to developing, including holding symbols.

Councillor Brad Nieman asked that the developer hold a second meeting, adding that when asked today, the developer said they didn’t want to hold a second meeting.

“There is no legal way to require them to do another meeting; they have heard loud and clear that one is preferred,” added Michael Michaud, manager of planning.

Councillor Janice Maynard requested the deferral include a point to contact the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board for its ideas on a safe group bus stop. Councillor John Hirsch noted it include the request for a sidewalk out to County Road 49, and confirmation that the developer be required to find a construction route (other than Fawcett Avenue).

The proposed 85-unit sub-division includes a mix of single detached (31 units) and townhouse dwellings (54 units) one to two storeys in height, with a residential net density in the range of 23 units per hectare.

The site at 233 Fawcett Avenue has an area of approximately 5.49 hectares and is located at the end of Fawcett Avenue. Low density residential development is the predominant housing form east of the subject lands while the north and south of the property is currently vacant. The lands are bound by the Millennium Trail to the west, with vacant agricultural land located beyond the trail.

Described as a “under-utilized, un-developed property within the settlement area of Picton” 5.5 hectares in size, the proposed residential sub-division extends the existing Fawcett Avenue neighbourhood, explained Kelsey Jones, a planner with Fotenn Planning and Design.

Access to the sub-division was planned via an extension to Fawcett Avenue that provides a direct connect to Picton Main Street. Street C would interface with the Millennium Trail and be constructed at a reduced width of 16 metres.

Councillor Nieman asked if there were plans for street C to extend to the south to McFarland Drive, so there would be two ways in and out and one which construction traffic could use. Jones confirmed the lands to the south are owned by a different entity, but also said that different points of access for construction vehicles are being explored.

Nieman also asked if there were plans for another public meeting for the public to comment on the site plan, to which the Jones said the public had their public meeting in April, as well as tonight’s statutory public meeting.

“The intent of the additional public meeting is for the residents of Fawcettville and surrounding area to understand the issues brought up at the first public meeting and how that’s going to be addressed, as I don’t think they received those answers, so how do they receive those answers?” asked Nieman.

Jones indicated the developer would replace all the removed trees, replacing them with a minimum of one new tree per property, for a minimum of 85 young trees (to replace the 44 mature and endangered butternuts). “It is our understanding that to allow removal of the 16 retainable butternuts on the property, the applicant will be required to locate a new appropriate one-hectare (approx.) site where 150 new butternut trees will be planted, along with 150 companion tree species.”

“It takes over 200 seedlings to replicate the benefits of one tree,” added Sheila Kuja with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, “so those 85 trees that would be planted aren’t even going to be equivalent to one tree.”

Councillor Hirsch noted that at the public meeting held April 16 (click here to see background story), the public had a lot of concerns and good ideas, but he was disappointed seeing the agenda package tonight that “really none of that had been taken into account”. Hirsch specifically spoke to the suggestion for the developer to consider paying for a sidewalk all the way down Fawcett Avenue, down to Main Street.

“Countless people mentioned the issue of safety with 85 more homes putting people on that road, it being a real hazard for pedestrians, and I think it would be a good faith measure if the developer were prepared to undertake paying for a sidewalk,” Hirsch said.

“The applicant at this time isn’t going to pay for that sidewalk along the existing neighbourhood,” said Jones, “What the application will be paying for is the installation of sidewalks within the new proposed sub-division.“ Jones did go on to suggest that staff could consider using some of the development charges to pay for a sidewalk.

“When it comes to sidewalks, if a sub-divider is going in getting the full benefit of all houses and that, they should damn well be paying for the cost of a sidewalk,” added councillor Roy Pennell.

Councillor MacNaughton spoke to the butternut trees and also collecting seed from them, and said, “losing that stock of viable endangered butternut trees is a real loss, and I do not support removing endangered trees, fundamentally”.

On the issue of sidewalks, councillor Maynard asked if there could be fewer sidewalks on the interior of the new sub-division where they are less needed, transferring that amount to that amount to the corridor, out to 49.

Around 18 members of the public spoke up against the application proceeding as it currently stands, mainly citing similar reasons for their objections and concerns, where most asked that the application be paused, or rejected.

While the lack of sidewalks, the single access road in and out of Fawcett Avenue, children’s safety especially regarding school bus stops were repeated throughout, the public’s comments also spoke to the outdated traffic studies, the loss of significant green space, failure to address the housing affordability crisis, the absent of green building technologies, land lack of sustainable goals, among them.

Fawcetteville resident, Katy Fillmore, described the area as a “very special enclave” with five short dead-end streets that intersect onto Fawcett Avenue, with one small road as the only way to get into and out of Fawcettville.

She spoke to the wildlife in the area: opossums, coyote, wild-tailed deer, fox, squirrels and moles, turtles, frogs and snakes and birds: owl and red-tailed hawk and bald eagles.

“As the plan stands, there is no other road in or out, there are plans to add sidewalks, and the development, if it goes ahead, will have an impact on our safety, on all of us, and the quality of life we have come to enjoy,” said Fillmore. “Fawcettville is attractive precisely because we have beautiful mature trees, farm fields on three sides, and we are safe here, protecting what we do have, and I impress upon you the unique characteristics that make Fawcettville so special.“

Along with several others, Fawcettville resident Wendy Fraser spoke to the quality of life being drastically affected if the sub-division goes ahead.

“Having only one access road in and out of Fawcettville during construction is a huge safety concern, it’s a narrow dead-end street, and it is an accident waiting to happen,“ said Fraser. “My second concern is the destruction of yet another local woodland that is home to many different species.”

Angus Fraser’s concern is with the width of the road in Fawcettville, so he said he went out and measured it.

“I went out and measured it from the edge of my ditch, across the road, to the edge of my neighbours ditch, and it was 26.5 feet, so I’m concerned that having the excess of traffic going up and down that road, and if two cars meet at the same time, and there’s people walking and riding bikes, that road is definitely not wide enough, and that’s not counting he snow build up in the winter,” Fraser said. “There’s no sidewalks, no curbs, it’s all ditches, and only one access road is a major issue, there’s only one way in and out of there.“

Growth for the sake of growth must not come at the expense of an already established community, and certainly not at the expense of its residents, said Fawcett Avenue resident Steven Gunn.

He addressed the significant human impact, and said the development “does not enhance the current community, and in fact, building two-storey homes and townhouses will completely change the look of the community dominated by single-storey bungalows all in a low-density setting”.

Third generation County resident (and grand-daughter of CML Snider), Mary Beth Snider, spoke to the 170 more cars that come with 85 new homes, and the single access road.

“We have just opened up a safety issue for Fawcettville and this makes it dangerous for our streets and our children and for our elderly,” said Snider, “and even if you were to give us a sidewalk, you don’t have another road in and another road out; it’s not safe, there’s no common sense.“

All planning documents related to this application can be found on the County’s website.

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  1. Angus Ross says:

    In the Guildwood area where I lived previously in Toronto it was a heavily treed area prior to being developed into a subdivision. In their development plans the builder noted all the significant mature trees and designed the roads/houses so that they wound around the trees. The result was a green community right from the start. Few straight streets, parkland with walking/biking paths and it remains that way today – even after the depredations of Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer. Yes, a few fewer houses were built but the net impact was a green and lovely community. Fawcetteville could be the same.

  2. Liz says:

    Excellent summary of the meeting.
    Thank you for your article.

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