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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Council turns down “Good Planning” Amendment

On November 19th, 2012, Councilor Martin proposed an OP Amendment (OPA) establishing criteria for residential development on vacant lands within the Thornbury Urban Community TUC). Why?

The Telfer proposal of an “adult lifestyle” community of 86 residential units on land leases (at the SE Corner of Napier and Victoria Streets) basically exposed a long-standing and very serious planning problem: there are no virtually no planning controls in place or guidance for development of vacant lands within the TUC that are designated “RES” or “DD” in the Official Plan (OP); and, compatibility of development remains undefined and the character of the community is threatened.

This problem has been acknowledged by both planning staff and consultants and residents have asked Council on numerous occasions since the fall of 2010 for more specific Official Plan policies and Zoning By-law regulations for these areas.

Many believe that the 5-year OP review could address this planning problem, however, continuous delays and a lack of trust in the review process do not bode well for the necessary changes to be in place in the near future or at least in the next two years. In the meantime, any large scale “silo” style development could move forward under the old OP and turn “a field of dreams into a field of schemes”.

People living in the neighbourhood and people who consider living in this neighbourhood should have a clear expectation of what their community will look like in the future. By turning down this amendment, this Council provides no clear vision or guidance for the future of this community – only fears of what lie ahead.

In turning down this amendment (4-3), it is my opinion that two important issues come to the forefront: one, that the Telfer proposal has been approved secretly behind closed doors and that certain members of Council don’t want to jeopardize proposed “Minutes of Settlement” to be presented at a OMB Prehearing schedule for January 29th, 2013; and second, that certain members of Council do not consider this project worthy of spending taxpayer money on legal fees – as one member of Council says, the money would be better spent on “throwing bags of gravel on the road than legal fees”.

Victoria Residents Group also are disheartened by Council’s decision to ignore them. According to area resident Brian nelson, who has been involved with the Group since the beginning of this controversy in 2010: “People around here are definitely disappointed and concerned. It’s hard to understand how the the concerns of so many people over such a long time can be rejected by Council. the lack of planning here is astounding, and wouldn’t be tolerated in other communities. Something like the Telfer plan, with so many questions and problems, shouldn’t even be on the table.”

It’s interesting that on the night that the OP Amendment was turned down, the “Sustainable Path” Committee made a presentation about the bright future of our community and how we should move forward – Council was all for it! However, when the topic of how to “sustain the character of our own community” came up, the majority of Council turns it down – we might as well put that document on the shelf. It’s noteworthy that the Telfer proposal addresses none of the key planning principles outlined in the Sustainable Path, not even basic accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists.

Finally, as the Telfer OMB Prehearing approaches, I’m starting to imagine what the Town will say in their attempt to present “Minutes of Settlement” and ultimately, grant approval of an “unwanted” development. Will the Town representative say “we agree to proceed with approval because this proposal represents good land use planning”.