Minto approves townhouse zoning amendment

Minto council has approved a rezoning intended to allow developers of the former Harriston Senior School property to build additional townhouse units and provide a slightly smaller park area than originally proposed.

Developers Jeremy and Jeff Metzger applied to rezone a portion of the former school land, currently owned by the town and designated Open Space, to Residential Exception Zone (R2-46) to allow the development of townhouses. On another portion of the property a proposed amendment would allow relief from the required rear yard setback and distance between buildings.

The first amendment was intended to facilitate the sale of the land by the town to the Metzgers for the purpose of constructing an additional fourplex as part of a planned “seniors” community. The change would add four units to the development, bringing the total to 23, but would have reduced by about one-third the area of a proposed park/stormwater management pond retained by the town in the original sale of the property.

However, at a June 7 public meeting, some residents who purchased homes fronting on George Street in the first stage of construction were upset to learn they may have a building, rather than a park behind their homes. Other concerns, including a plan to market the apartment complexes as rental units rather than condos and the impact on parking in the area were also expressed.

Town officials subsequently met with developers and two options were presented for council consideration at the June 21 meeting.

Option one allowed no development on town-owned parkland. The zoning amendment would have only changed setback requirements on the applicant’s own lands and would likely have reduced total possible townhouse units to about 19, unless units were made smaller or garages eliminated.

Option two, which was approved by council, requires about 0.08 hectares less town-owned land than the original proposal. The proposal allows for a 23-unit townhouse development with a firetruck turnaround being constructed of turf stone on the edge of the town-owned lands. The overall park and pond size changes from 1.45 acres (0.586 ha) to 1.247 acres (0.5047 ha). Only a small portion of two buildings extend into the parkland area, rather than placing an entire townhouse unit in that location.

“There was not (and still is not) a verbal, written or implied agreement between the town and developer to sell any part of the park and pond,” stated CAO Bill White in a written report. White noted terms of the sale of the land must be negotiated following the municipality’s disposition of land bylaw which includes a public notice of sale.

The report also notes property value and tenure (rental vs. condo) “are not relevant to the land use issue,” and points out while the townhouses are being marketed to seniors “larger one-storey units with garages suit senior aged clients, but may not be exclusive to them.”

Council accepted the report recommending option two and passed a bylaw rezoning the lands to facilitate the option.