ELORA – Don’t mess with the woodlot. And don’t mess with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) decision of 2018.
That’s what many residents had to say at a public meeting on March 29 in response to a zoning change application by Bruce Youngblood to reduce the size and configuration of a woodlot and open space zones on his property.
The property is on South River Road in Elora. Two subdivisions have been approved – Haylock and Youngblood – and Haylock is well under way.
The two subdivisions were planned together, with a park straddling both developments and interior roads linking the two.
On the Youngblood property, there is a woodlot on the south side of South River Road that must be maintained and rehabilitated.
Just south of that is land designated as open space. Together the woodlot and open space area are referred to as Block 11.
South of Block 11 on the planning maps is Block 5, a condominium block approved to be developed with 30 single detached dwelling lots.
The proposed zoning bylaw amendment would alter the boundary between Block 5 and Block 11, shrink the open space zone a bit, and reconfigure the woodlot to form a 30-metre-wide corridor between South River Road and the subdivision
Dave Aston, of MHBC planners, explained these “minor” alterations in the zoning change application would “facilitate a more efficient design for the development of residential Block 5.”
They are not seeking to add more than the 30 dwellings already approved.
Aston said a recent environmental analysis indicates the woodlot has very few native trees and is overrun with invasive species.
He suggested the first step to rehabilitate the woodlot would be to remove the invasive species.
“We would do a detailed tree inventory, but 85 to 90 per cent of the trees are non-native or invasive,” Youngblood added.
“So there would be very few trees remaining when we rehabilitate.”
He said the woodlot has continued to degrade over time, calling it “an ecological desert. It’s a dead ecosystem.”
The original plan of subdivision was taken to LPAT and a decision was released in January 2018.
“The applicant has no justification for this,” said local resident Doug Newman, who delegated at the meeting.
“This zoning was settled years ago, and nothing has changed. Nothing should overturn the LPAT ruling.”
Newman reminded council the obligation for the developer to rehabilitate the woodlot was compensation for all the other trees removed to make way for homes.
“The applicants need to honour their commitment. They can’t get rid of the woodlot because they didn’t restore it,” Newman said.
Eugene Kraemer, who lives two doors down from the subdivision, said there is already a hydro corridor that runs through the woodlot.
That would make an excellent trail that could link to existing trails in Elora and would not require removing trees.
Mayor Shawn Watters, a councillor when the Youngblood subdivision first came to council, recalled the LPAT hearing.
“This was a contentious issue in our community. Lots of money was spent on LPAT. I don’t quite understand why these discussions were not at the table at the time,” he said.
“If the tree quality is important, why not bring it up at the time?
“I find it difficult to revisit this issue,” Watters continued.
“That was the decision of LPAT and we need to take it seriously. I don’t want to re-litigate this.”
Council made no decisions at the meeting. The matter will return to council at a future date.