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‘Great concern’: Neighbors intensify battle over development

‘Great concern’: Neighbors intensify battle over development

‘This will change everything about our way of life,’ says local resident; developer decides to appeal to Ontario Land Tribunal

Neighbors who four years ago objected to a zoning change application and permit application for a development on Greenwood Forest Road in Oro-Medonte stood before the council again last week to remind the current council that they are still there be against.

As far as they are concerned, nothing has changed and the problems remain the same: potential traffic congestion and negative impacts on Lake Simcoe, the removal of significant forest area and poor planning.

How much influence they will have remains to be seen, as the decision to allow the development now rests with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).

George Vadeboncoeur, Oro-Medonte’s special projects planning manager, advised the municipality in a report received for informational purposes only, “that the municipality has received an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) regarding a non-decision taken by the municipality. on Zoning Amendment Application 2020-ZBA-05 and Consent Applications 2020-B-04 to 2020-B12 from UCCI Consolidated Companies Inc.”

The amendment to the zoning plan regulation and the associated permit applications were submitted to the municipality on April 20, 2020.

The proposed rezoning sought to revise the existing zone from open space to a rural residential area, with one exception. Nine applications for permission were submitted to create nine new plots of land and one retained plot, totaling 10 residential plots.

The Planning Act requires that decisions on applications for zoning plan amendments be made at least 90 days after the date on which the specific application is deemed complete.

The applications were considered complete on May 6, 2020.

On March 6, 2024, the municipality received a letter from the applicant’s lawyer, in which the applicant appealed against the council’s failure to take a decision on the applications for zoning plan amendments and permission to the OLT.

“The applicant has worked with appropriate authorities and staff to address the comments made through the public process, but has decided to appeal the applications to the OLT, which controls the process and authority for approval the OLT instead of to the council,” Vadeboncoeur said in his report.

The OLT has scheduled a case management conference (CMC) about the appeals on Friday, July 12.

Vadeboncoeur’s report states that the applicant has worked over the past three years to address the public and agency considerations raised as part of the public notice process, including:

  • tree conservation and environmental impact
  • character of the neighborhood
  • walking path and adjacent parking lot
  • contrary to planning policy
  • preservation of private-public space
  • extension of Greenwood Forest Road to connect to Windfields Drive
  • safety and security of property
  • more traffic in the area.

Jamie Robinson, a planner with MHBC and an advisor to Steven and Shannon Schroeder, who live at 17 Windfields Dr., appeared before the council to ask it to “defend the decision, or lack of decision, and oppose the proposed applications for that property, both the consent applications and the application for the change of zoning.”

He said recent changes to the Planning Act, brought about as a result of Bill 185, could impact the ability of neighbors to participate in that OLT hearing if the city council chooses not to participate, or if they choose not to defend their decision.

“From the neighbour’s perspective, it’s important that they have the ability to, for lack of a better term, hitch their wagon to a council position to deny or oppose that proposed development,” Robinson said.

According to Robinson, who indicated that he is a planner and not a lawyer, the change in law has taken away the right of third parties to appeal zoning changes and changes to the official plan.

He added that the right of appeal to third parties had already been withdrawn in the past for applications from adjustment committees and also for subdivision plans.

“This is a unique application because it is an appeal against a non-decision; the council has not made a decision on the application,” Robinson said. “It is an applicant-led appeal.

“Historically, third parties, such as neighbors, can be parties to those cases. We hope that is still the case, but it is not entirely certain,” he added.

Robinson noted that the legislation is new (it has only been in effect for about three weeks) and therefore has never been tested.

“I was specifically asked by the attorney for the residents in that area to make that comment because there is some confusion about it,” Robinson said. “I would expect that the attorney for the applicant would be fighting at a hearing, when the city is not present, to not add the residents as a party based on this change in the law.”

Brenda Norwich lives at 20 Park View Ave., around the corner from the proposed development site. She said the site is a recognized forest area, home to a wide variety of animals and an essential part of the local landscape.

She pleaded with the municipality of Oro-Medonte to show that it cared about the environment and oppose the development.

“The interests of the many must outweigh the interests of one family,” she said, citing UCCI Consolidated Companies Inc. and the sincere, well-documented concerns of more than 40 families in the area.

“This will change everything about our lifestyle,” Norwich added.

Bruce Hovey, who lives across the street from the proposed development site, said he is concerned about the traffic that will occur if the development goes ahead, as well as the safety of residents.

“My big concern is that once you put these houses up, you’re going to have construction traffic for the next 10 years,” he said, addressing the council. “It’s going to be a nightmare, not just now, but it’s going to be a problem that you’re going to have to deal with for years to come.

“It’s going to be dangerous,” Hovey added.

From now on, the municipality’s employees need directions and instructions from the council regarding the role and position of the municipality during the procedure.

“Because these are contentious issues, the council’s guidance/instruction is given in closed sessions so as not to prejudice the municipality’s positions, which are based on a variety of considerations,” Vadeboncoeur wrote in his report.

“The case management conference scheduled for July 12 is the beginning of an OLT process that may take some time to resolve,” he added.

BarrieToday has established UCCI Consolidated Companies Inc. requested comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.