KENILWORTH – A recent Wellington North meeting to discuss minor changes to the township’s zoning bylaw turned into a testy exchange about what new homeowners need more of: parking or yard area.
Shayne DeBoer of Pinestone Homes and local realtor James Coffey spoke about six total minor variance applications on Nov. 6.
Each sought council’s blessing for various reductions to the size of front lawns to accommodate larger driveways at several Schmidt Drive properties in Arthur.
Councillors Sherry Burke and Penny Renken voiced concerns about the proposed reductions and with smaller yards, where snow plowed from Schmidt Drive would go.
The first application considered by council, pertaining to a semi-detached unit with a basement apartment, was voted down in a tie vote.
Councillors Steve McCabe and Lisa Hern voted in favour, and Burke and Renken voted against.
Mayor Andy Lennox, whose hand can alter a vote’s outcome, was absent.
Sounding miffed, DeBoer said council’s decision would be appealed.
“We’re worried about a little bit of snow in the front yards of these places, and that’s what’s deterring us away from having more places to live?” he asked.
In a later phone call with the Advertiser, DeBoer clarified the developer wouldn’t be going to the province’s land tribunal.
Instead, Pinestone Homes intends to work with the township to submit a more palatable application. What that looks like is not known.
At the Nov. 6 meeting the developer contended first-time home buyers could enter a semi-detached home with a “mortgage helper” living in the basement for under $1 million – but everyone needs room to park.
“From everybody I’ve heard, just keeping the vehicles off the road is what the main concern of the township has been forever,” DeBoer said.
“My concern is that we’re packing people in; they need space,” Burke countered.
Though Renken recognized the developer is creating more housing, she said people coming into the community are in pursuit of rural living, not the urbanized areas they may have once lived.
Councillors made suggestions to preserve more yard area, and even reduce home sizes in favour of front lawns.
Hern favoured what she said the developer is trying to accomplish.
“We’re not talking about high rises, we’re talking about essentially basement apartments,” Hern said.
“We really do need to address the missing middle, and help maintain our rural fabric, and provide housing and provide cost-effective housing, and I think this is one of the approaches we need to follow.”
Reading the room, CAO Brooke Lambert left her chair to confer with chief building official Darren Jones, and also spoke with clerk Karren Wallace.
At staff’s suggestion, McCabe said council could defer and send the remaining applications back to staff, avoiding a vote that could quash them in the process.
Lambert said like issues would arise with ongoing densification.
“We want to do this in a sustained and logical way,” she said, adding staff would tackle concerns, including those voiced by Renken about the township’s ability to service a growing population, in a growth management plan.
The developer’s foresight, Lambert said, is “a very helpful thing for these types of units.”
“This is the direction that communities are going to be going in,” Lambert emphasized.
“I think it’s really important for us to be proactive about some of these issues.”
Four applications were deferred to township staff, one was passed with a compromise, and the other denied.
DeBoer confirmed Pinestone had plans to meet with the township later this week.
County planner Jessica Rahim, who reviewed the applications as the township’s planning consultant, did not return a message from the Advertiser.