Minto council approves variances to allow triplexes on in-fill lots

Neighbouring resident expresses concern over density issues, increased traffic

MINTO – The Town of Minto has approved minor variances to allow two three-unit townhouses on separate lots on Queen Street North in Harriston.

Council approved the variances following committee of adjustment hearings on the proposals at the May 9 council meeting.

The decision provides relief from the town’s zoning bylaw to allow the townhouses with reduced front and back lot areas. The 0.2 acre (0.08 ha) properties are located in a residential neighbourhood.  

The town’s zoning bylaw requires a minimum lot area per dwelling unit of 280m² (3,014ft²) rather than the 243.8m² (2,624ft²) proposed. The bylaw also requires a minimum lot frontage per unit of 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) rather than the 6.1 metres (20 feet) proposed.

Minto planning coordinator Ashley Sawyer told council the lots were rezoned in 2022 from residential, which permits single families homes to residential R2 which permits up to four-unit townhouses. 

“The original developer did not require any site-specific zoning relief as they were proposing to construct a semi-detached dwelling. Since the passing of that bylaw the properties have now been sold to a new developer … Steve Hummel, who is proposing to construct one three-unit street townhouse on each of these lots,” Sawyer explained.

She said town staff is satisfied the requested variance is minor in nature and recommend approval.

“The developer has considered multiple development alternatives on the property and feels that this is the most feasible and suitable for the existing neighborhood,” she stated.

While there were no objections to the proposal by Wellington County, Wellington Source Water Protection or local conservation authorities, local resident Natascha Park, who lives across the street from the proposed development, outlined concerns in a letter.

“I have lived here for over 20 years, and knew when I moved here that one day the retired scrap yard with its orange and brown fence would one day be cleaned, empty, severed and houses would be added to the neighborhood. I have been excited to see interest in making more homes in our town, and especially our neighborhood,” Park stated in her letter.

However, she expressed concern about the amount of housing being proposed in a small space and the impact on local traffic. 

“The idea of six more units on this street worries me safety and infrastructure wise. I have watched this street grow from a sleepy quiet back street to a speedway/detour,” she added.

“When the summer traffic kicks in, and our main street is backed up on Fridays, this hill has become a detour, with no stop signs on Queen Street South between Jessie Street and Raglan Street.”

Park also noted the municipal swimming pool and park are located nearby and there is “plenty of foot traffic” from a nearby convenience store. 

“The speed of some vehicles and the blind spot of the hill pose a safety risk already,” she stated.

“Now add six more driveways, and at least six more vehicles trying to pull out on a hill with no stops and lots of traffic.”

She continued,  “These already will be small houses, now they will be smaller… How is this going to attract those looking for the small-town feel of space and a nice backyard? Building houses in the neighborhood is great for our property values, but bending the rules to make smaller houses just for the sake of having more houses isn’t necessarily attractive to buyers.”

 Park also expressed concern about additional strain on sewage capacity.

“Infrastructure wise, I don’t see any concern,” said Minto development technician Ryan Binkle.

“The sewers are adequately sized for any servicing along there.” 

While not currently in the town’s five year plan, Binkle noted it’s possible increased population and traffic in the area could move the street up the priority list for curbs and sidewalks.

Park, who was at the meeting, asked about the possibility of putting a stop sign on the street to “slow the traffic down a little bit.”

“Through the Ontario Traffic Manual, they’re not supposed to be used for traffic-calming measures that way,” explained Minto roads and drainage manager Mike McIsaac.

However, he noted if multiple complaints are received the town could look into the idea.

Deputy mayor Jean Anderson expressed concern with newly-enacted provincial legislation allowing up to four units on residential lots.

“That is something that the province has mandated. However, you still have to provide parking,” said Sawyer, who noted it’s unlikely the developer would consider adding any additional units to the proposal.

“Given the proposed layout and the tightness of … the units already, we don’t see that as being an option. So the developer is aware of that. That’s not something that he’s proposing. And I would say it would be nearly impossible, with the parking, to be able to provide that,” she noted.

Council approved the requested variances following separate hearings on the proposals.