Minto facing OMB appeal of rezoning of former school property

The Town of Minto is facing an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing over the rezoning of a local residential development.

CAO Bill White advised council on July 19 that George Street residents Kerri and Rolf Schuettel have filed an appeal of bylaw 2016-048.

The bylaw, approved on June 21, is 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 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 have added 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 included a plan to market the apartment complexes as rental units rather than condos, and the impact on parking in the area.

White called the bylaw passed on June 21 “a compromise” solution. The bylaw  facilitates an option that requires about 0.08 hectares less town-owned land than the original proposal.

The proposal allows for a 23-unit townhouse development with a fire truck turnaround constructed of turf stone on the edge of the town-owned lands. The overall park and pond size changes from 1.45 acres (about 0.6 hectares) to 1.247 acres (0.5 ha). Only a small portion of two buildings extend into the parkland area, rather than placing an entire townhouse unit in that location.

No agreement has been put in place for sale of the land to the developer.

The appeal received by the town on July 11, calls the passing of the bylaw “premature and ill-advised” and states it “does not reflect good land use planning.” The appeal letter contends the common amenity areas provided in the development would not meet requirements for townhouse dwellings in other municipal bylaws.

It also states the bylaw:

– would allow for buildings that don’t meet minimum lot frontage requirements;

– does not adequately address interior side yard requirements;

– does not provide for sufficient resident park and does not provide for any visitor parking;

– was approved contrary to Mailtland Valley Conservation Authority objections.

The Schuettels are also objecting to development being proposed on land not owned by the developer.

“Approval of a zoning bylaw prior to an agreement (at least) in principle is premature and should only occur when an agreement is in place,” the Schuettels’ letter states.

The letter also questions the amount of time allowed for review of the redesigned site plan, the impact of reduction of the stormwater management pond on existing homes and the amount of public notice given prior to the passage of the bylaw. In addition, the letter notes “the turf stone turnabout area will only be used for fire trucks,” and questions how garbage pickup will be addressed on the site.

“The decision for council tonight is whether you wish to defend your decision or not,” said White.

“We don’t really want to get into too much detail on what our case may or may not be, or what the appeal is or isn’t at this point … I think that we invested enough as a staff and council in trying to work through this that we would want to support our decision-making process.”

Council approved a staff recommendation to appoint Patrick Kraemer of Duncan Linton as legal council to defend the town’s position on at the OMB proceedings.

White estimates the appeal will delay any work on the site based on the bylaw in question by two to six months.

“The project as negotiated cannot go ahead,” said White, noting the developer could apply to proceed with a project that complied with the existing zoning.