Dense development plan near Willow West rejected


By Barb McKay


A proposal for a multi-residential development on the edge of the Willow West subdivision will not be getting off the ground.


The Municipality of Kincardine council unanimously turned down a request from developer Tom Kerr for a multitude of zoning changes to the property at Kincardine Avenue and Fraser Drive to accommodate 19 residential units. Kerr proposed to build three semi-detached houses, six townhouse units and a six-unit apartment complex on the two-acre lot. A farm house that already exists on the property will remain.


Bruce County planner Mollie Kuchma gave a detailed outline of the proposal and the application for zoning amendments during last Wednesday’s planning advisory committee meeting. She said several concerns that were raised by neighbouring property owners would be addressed through site plan control. The municipality has already determined that there is adequate water and sewer capacity to handle the development.


The plan was openly criticized by several residents of the Willow West subdivision who attended the meeting in council chambers. The Bruce County planning department received 44 written and verbal comments opposing the development as it was proposed. Kuchma and Kincardine chief building official Michele Barr also met with a group of eight residents to discuss the proposal in more detail. Concerns include potential parking congestion on Fraser Drive and Murray Boulevard, public safety from increased traffic, garbage containment on the property, tree preservation and drainage issues. There were questions about whether any of the units would be geared-to-income, and no rental amounts were indicated in the proposal. According to the planning report, Kerr plans townhouse units and the apartment complex to a property management company.


Dexter Gaudette lives on Duncan Place and said he fears that changes to the current zoning on the property will negatively impact property values in the area. He said Kerr has the right to develop, but shoehorning 19 units onto that lot does not make sense.


Jamie Hunsburger, who lives on Murray Boulevard, said he is not convinced the high density development is needed, given the number of condo units just east of the property, on Kincardine Avenue. He also expressed concern that century-old maple trees would need to be removed to accommodate the development.


“I see only one person who stands to benefit from this change,” Hunsburger said.


Bonnie Philips lives on Fraser Boulevard and told councillors that she does not believe the apartment complex would fit in with the development, let alone the neighbourhood.


Terry Brown, a resident of Murray Boulevard, said the neighbourhood feels very safe currently. He is worried that, with the entrance to the units on the already-busy Fraser Drive, safety will become an issue.


“People won’t be able to walk safely. School buses won’t be able to get around safely. I want you to consider, when you make your decision, how residents will be impacted.”


Kerr also addressed council and said he hoped it would approve the application for zoning changes.


“I think what you have in front of you is the best use of this property,” he said.


But council members did not agree. Councillor Laura Haight pointed out several concerns. Although each unit would have parking, along with two visitor spaces for the entire development, she said there was little space to pile snow in the winter when the parking lot is plowed. While Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority had no objections to the proposal, Haight said a nearby fish habitat could be impacted by runoff containing salt and sand in the winter.


The biggest concern for councillors was the number of zoning amendment requests. In the application, Kerr requested changes to requirements for front, side and rear setbacks to accommodate the number of buildings.


“I think there is too much relief being requested,” Haight said. “It’s too tight.”


She said she could not support the proposal. Councillors Linda McKee, Andrew White and Gordon Campbell also voiced concerns about the density of the development and the number of zoning changes.


“We should not be making rules and then breaking them,” Campbell said.


Councillor Randy Roppel said he did not support the development but also has a problem with the developer. He said Kerr’s residential development on King Street in Tiverton has been ongoing for four years and the municipality has had to run after him to keep the property tidy. He said council shouldn’t approve any applications from Kerr until his current development is complete.


Building and planning policy chair Maureen Couture put a stop to the comments.


“I don’t think this is an appropriate time for this discussion,” she said.


Deputy mayor Jacqueline Faubert said development of the property should be consistent with the original intent of the Willow West subdivision, which when it was first developed in 1991, was for single family homes.


Mayor Anne Eadie said she agreed with most of the points made, particularly those concerning consistent development, density and the zoning requests, but noted that her greatest concern was about having access to the units on Fraser Drive. As such, she said, she could not support the proposal.


Before council voted to approve or reject the application, Couture asked county planner Leah Barrie to explain Kerr’s option, and the public’s, to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. There is a 20-day appeal period following council’s decision on the application.


Barrie pointed out to council that it could also choose to defer a decision, which would allow planners to work with Kerr to revise the application and come back to council in a month or two. Haight said if council decided to defer she wanted to ensure that Kerr was not left with the impression that the application would only need minor adjustments. She said either the townhouses or the apartments would likely need to be removed from the proposal.


“This is a density issue,” she said.


Council ultimately defeated a motion to defer the application and then voted to reject it.