HARRISTON – A local couple is about to get their day in court in a long-standing dispute over elements of a townhouse development behind their George Street home.
An Ontario Superior Court hearing is set for March 12 in the dispute between Kerri and Rolf Schuettel and the Town of Minto and its chief building official Terry Kuipers.
In 2016 the town amended zoning, from open space to residential exception zone, on a portion of the former Harriston Senior School property to facilitate the development of townhouses.
The town had bought the property for $60,00 from the Upper Grand District School Board in 2012, and later sold the lands for development.
The amendment included relief from required rear yard and interior side yard setbacks, and also from minimum distance between buildings.
The Schuettels appealed the move to the Ontario Municipal Board over a variety of concerns ranging from public notice issues and parking, to storm water management impacts on neighbouring properties. However, the parties came to an agreement before the matter reached the hearing stage.
OMB minutes of settlement approved on Feb. 3, 2017 indicate the town agreed to an amended version of the original zoning bylaw amendment that allowed for the side and rear yard setback reductions, but required all development to be constructed within provisions of the town’s bylaw regarding “parking, amenity space, garbage facilities and other matters” in a suitable manner.
The settlement also mandates a one-storey height limitation for all developments on the subject lands.
However, as development proceeded on the site, which had changed hands from local developers Jeremy and Jeff Metzger and to Kenilworth-based Quality Homes (which is now a party to the court case), the Schuettels questioned whether the agreement was being adhered to.
“We had been concerned that the plans for the developer, both the Metzgers and when it switched hands, were not single-storey developments,” Kerri Schuettel told the Community News in a Feb. 18 interview.
Schuettel explained, “We had voiced our concerns to council on multiple occasions.
“We tried to get confirmation from the municipality that it wasn’t a second storey building despite the plans and the promotion showing two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. So we actually, in July of 2019, filed a court case to request a declaration of a judge on the matter.”
She added she and her husband wanted a judge to determine, whether a loft area above the main floor of the units is “a second storey or not – because the municipality is suggesting that they don’t believe it is,” while a planner they had employed to work on the earlier OMB hearing, “seems to think otherwise.”
While the Schuettels say the municipality breached its minutes of settlement “by allowing a development that’s outside of the zoning bylaw” by the time the court case was launched, Schuettel said, “the idea was there was already someone living in a built structure, so it wasn’t’ to request any relief but just to have a judge declare that, yes, the municipality issued the permit illegally, with two storeys, and that no additional permits would be issued in that manner.”
“So almost two years later we finally have a court date,” said Schuettel.
“Where it’s a little interesting is the fact that the town has continued to issue the rest of the permits in the process of waiting for us to get to court.
“So what’s going before the court is the original application as well as a formal building permit appeal on the blocks that are not built,” she continued.
“My understanding is that all of the units have now been sold, but yet we have a building code permit appeal before the court.”
Schuettel noted she and her husband are seeking a declaration confirming their position is correct and ensuring compliance with existing regulations and agreements.
“When we filed our original application, because only one was completed, we were not seeking any sort of remedy,” she stated.
“We were just seeking a declaration that it was illegal, or not, and if it was … then no other permits would be issued so no one else would be affected by it and the rest would get corrected.”
She added, “Obviously the landscape has changed significantly,” noting the court case includes a formal permit appeal on unbuilt units and “we have requested any construction that begins on those to be … removed or brought into compliance” if found to be illegal.
Schuettel stated she and her husband are not seeking any financial compensation in their suit.
However, the statement of claim does include a request that the couple’s legal costs be covered, as well as “any such further and other relief” the court “deems to be just.”
Minto Mayor George Bridge declined to comment on details of the case because it is before the courts.
“I’m just glad it’s got to this point because it’s a delaying thing. There are people that have bought all those properties, so I just hope they can settle it somehow,” said Bridge.
“I’m hoping that we’ll have some resolution.”
Although not included in the lawsuit, the Schuettels are also concerned a fire truck turnaround on the edge of town-owned lands bordering the development is instead being used for parking.
Schuettel said the couple has been unable to get a response to recent communication on the issue from town staff or council members.
“The development, when it was created, didn’t leave enough room for a fire truck or emergency vehicles to turn around. So the municipality, through the minutes of settlement, agreed they would be allowed to use the municipal land for that purpose,” she explained, noting the turnaround “is supposed to look like open-space grassed area.
“We just really wanted council to do what they said they were going to do.”