By Craig Westcott | The Shoreline - January 9th, 2019 Edition
The recommendation from staff was to reject it, but Paradise councillors weren’t comfortable with that idea Tuesday when they voted to send a proposal for a 67-lot subdivision back to committee for a second chance at approval.
The decision marked one of several lengthy and frank debates at what was the first new expanded meeting of council.
“This is kind of a milestone,” Mayor Dan Bobbett said kicking off the new format, which will see fewer private council meetings, and more things discussed at the public sessions. “Council basically looked at doing all of our business up front and in public... This is a means of openness and transparency and doing business up front here in the (public) meeting.”
As for the proposed subdivision by Pearl Investments, the chairman of the planning committee, councillor Stirling Willis, brought forward the staff recommendation to refuse to even entertain the request for rezoning to accommodate the subdivision, but made clear he was doing so only because his duties as chairman required it, not because he wanted to turn down the project.
Mayor Bobbett clarified the staff recommendation was based on Section 2.3 of the Town’s new Municipal Plan. The plan aims to focus new development in the town’s core, gradually building outwards. The proposed subdivision is essentially the opposite of that, being located off the St. Thomas Line north of Stapleton’s Road.
“I’m not totally, a hundred per cent in favour of doing that,” Willis said of the motion to reject the application.
Willis said there was a lot of discussion with residents in the area during the formulation of the new town plan “and they feel they should have the ability to subdivide their land, or develop their land. If we do this now, we’re saying we’re not recognizing that at this time.”
Willis said his committee also looked at the issue of whether market demand should drive new developments. “I’m betwixt and between,” said Willis.
Councillor Paul Dinn, who is also a member of the committee, said in an ideal world, the planning guidelines would be the way to go. “But we also said during our consultations, when we were looking at the zoning of those areas, we all talked about letting the market drive development. So we said let’s have the discussion at the council level and see where everyone else is on it. I’m of the opinion similar to councillor Willis that if there’s a market I see no reason why we would hold it back. But I say that also appreciating where our staff are coming from in terms of the recommendation.”
Mayor Bobbett seemed to feel similarly, pointing out the Municipal Plan takes a lot of things into consideration when it comes to guiding development, including types of housing needed and population densities. He acknowledged the feelings of the landowners. “We did have a lot of landowners in that area who said, ‘Why can’t I develop my land? I’ve got access, I’m willing to put (the necessary infrastructure) in, why can’t I?’ We did change some of the language in the plan to look at growth in that area.”
Councillor Allan English said the proposed subdivision could have a major side benefit, not directly related to the subdivision itself. “It’s the situation that currently exists on Stapleton’s Road,” he pointed out. “There has been an ongoing, significant water problem on Stapleton’s Road and one of the things that would come out of this development, if it were to go forward, wouldbe at least a partial resolution to that problem, because some of the water appears to be coming from behind the properties that are on Stapleton’s Road. One of the aspects of this development would be water retention... I’m not really sure how to go on this. I see pros and cons to it. I also believe in the market generating the activity.”
English added that if council does consider the application, he would be inclined to having a requirement that the development be residential medium density as opposed to low density.
Bobbett pointed out a second positive effect, if the subdivision were to proceed, namely that it would provide another traffic connection for residents on Stapleton’s Road and that part of the St. Thomas Line.
“I certainly agree that we should look at entertaining that application,” said Councillor Deborah Quilty said. “We’ve met with those residents down in St. Thomas’ many times. I remember down at the new community centre (for a meeting) and we had residents there who were waiting to get the word that they could actually go out and consider developing.”
Quilty said any new subdivision would proceed the same as the other subdivision in the area, “as the market dictates.” The real estate market is improving somewhat, she said. “So, I think we should proceed with the application as well as look at the rezoning of that property.”
To do that, Bobbett said, council would first have to reject Willis’ initial motion and then agree to send the matter back to the committee for further consideration, which is just what it did, unanimously, after the mayor called the vote.
“To say that we had discussions with residents in that area I think is an understatement,” said Deputy Mayor Laurie. “Our plan was delayed a year pretty much because of the meetings and the consultations with residents, because we wanted to do it right. I feel we should certainly entertain this a little bit further in a positive manner. I would like it to go back to committee with the lens of perhaps approving this, or recommending it for approval.”