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OMB sides with developer in fight over estate lots next to industry, sewage plant

Posted January 21, 2014

2139549 Ontario Ltd. (Nottawasaga River Estates) has won its appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and secured approval to build 160 residential units on CW Leach Road and to relocate the parkland in a more centralized location within the proposed draft plan of subdivision.

The decision was issued on January 16 and provides for the Official Plan amendment and rezones lands legally described as Part of Lot 8, Concession 14 from Agricultural (A1) Zone to Urban Residential (UR2) and Open Space (OS) in order to implement the proposed draft plan of subdivision.

Nottawasaga River Estates appealed council's refusal last March to enact the proposed amendments despite its planning department's support contained in the draft plan approval package that ended up as key evidence against the Town.

As a result, the Town, represented by Jay Feehely, had to commission an outside planning consultant to help defend council's decision. The OMB was asked to rule on only two proposals: the original 60-lot "high-end" estate homes initially approved in 2006, or the proponent's amendment seeking to increase the development to 160 mixed residential units.

"The Board has carefully considered all the evidence, and the able submissions of counsel. The Board has also had regard for the decision of Council, and the information on which it was based. On review, however, the Board finds that it cannot endorse Council's position. Despite the eloquence of the arguments favouring the status quo, the Board is compelled to make the changes proposed by the applicant," according to the ruling.

"The proposal represents intensification, supported by Provincial policy; but that is not the main reason the Board endorses it. Nor does the Board take issue, in principle, with Council's desire to maintain a niche for "estate lots" in Alliston. The problem is location - luxury development between an industrial area and a sewage plant. Even if that insertion were appropriate (which is at least counterintuitive), it is inconsistent with the formal OP direction that this development should represent "transition" between the industrial area and the higher-density condominium development next door. The Board finds that the status quo does not do that; the proposal does. ......

What was surprising was the location. "Upscale" development is often planned to capitalize on some amenity - a view, a golf course, water access etc. in this case, the predominant views (background) would be of a Walmart, a car factory, an industrial area, and a sewage plant. In the foreground, as the applicant's planner observed, "the vistas and views are going to be of industrial rooftops. In his witness statement, the applicant's planner raised questions about the plausibility of marketing 72-foot luxury lots here, abutting manufacturing. It would be at least counterintuitive. Town planning staff, for its part, had originally reported that it too was "concerned" about that question. It is a concern which the Board shares. Counsel for the Town countered that there was no proof that estate lots in this location would represent an awkward fit. However, the fact that the Beamish plan did not proceed is, in and of itself, a factor from which inferences may be drawn. The Board was unconvinced that the perceived erosion of housing choice was immediate or real."

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