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Council opts to let Cappuccitti proposal proceed to OMB

Posted August 30, 2011

New Tecumseth councillors voted 6-4 last night against a motion meant to avoid a drawn out Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing into a proposed 15,000 unit residential community between Alliston and Beeton.

Deputy mayor Rick Milne, Ward 4 councillor Fran Sainsbury, Ward 5 councillor Donna Jebb, and Ward 8's Jim Stone voted in favour of directing Town staff to work with the proponents, Ontario Potato Distributing Inc (Cappuccitti family) and its development "partner" Mattamy Homes, to resolve the myriad of planning issues ahead of an OMB hearing. (At this post, it was an active file only).

Last December, OPDI and Mattamy appealed "on the basis that the Municipality refused to adopt the requested official plan amendment at its meeting on January 19, 2004." Council deemed it "premature" at the time because of growth studies that were underway locally and by the County. 

The subject site is bounded by the Nottawasaga River to the north, Bailey Creek to the south, Tottenham Road to the west, and 10 Sideroad to the east. The total plan is to cover approximately 3,000 acres, of which the Cappuccitti family owns about half.

Chris Barnett, of Davis LLP, speaking for the proponents, said the purpose of their delegation last night - which included in the audience lawyers representing other land owners, and the proponents planning team - was to update the new councillors, elected in November, and to secure approval for the sides "to try and address what we can, and start the conversation."

"And that's why the request is that we have an opportunity to have those discussions with you, to listen to those concerns and try to come to a common understanding," said Mr. Barnett. "So candidly, if we can avoid litigation, we can. That's certainly what we'd rather do."

It was a theme echoed by the three councillors who supported avoiding the OMB.

Councillor Stone said his main concern was ensuring that developments already in the queue would not be impacted.

"In Beeton and Tottenham we have a lot of approved developments and subdivisions and it's very important that they go ahead to make the town viable for commercial development," he said. "Presently our commercial development is dying in both those towns."

However, he agreed that "your type of development makes a lot of sense" and that "I don't think it's a good idea for us to take on you people in a court, and spend millions of dollars. I think it makes sense. You have to solve all the problems. It's a win win situation for our town."

Deputy mayor Milne said "no one should be surprised" that he was in favour of the Cappuccitti proposal.

"I've been a strong supporter of development in our community. I take a look at the acreage in the proposed development. It's not good agricultural land. You talk to any of the local farmers down there, they'll tell you, it's not good agricultural land. The good top soil from that was taken off many years ago when we were going to build an airport and it was never replaced. The amount of fertilizer that has to be pumped in per acre to grow things that we eat, scares me and the wonder about all the cancers," he said. "But besides that, I think this is a good proposal. And I agree with what Councillor Stone said, they're taking an area, and making a community of it. It's not like what we're doing in other parts of New Tecumseth, where we're adding on, and adding on, and adding on, and it just becomes piecemeal. I don't think we have anything to lose by asking this be directed back to staff, to look at. Because we are at the OMB hearing now, that if we can decide some of the things before it hits the OMB, I think it would be better."

Councillor Sainsbury agreed, suggesting the OMB was unpredictable, citing the recent loss by the Town over the Shoeless Joe's outdoor patio appeal.

"I would rather have our staff and our solicitor be in charge of our future and we can work with them to do what's best for New Tecumseth and not the OMB board because they don't live here, and they don't understand," she said.

Mayor Mike MacEachern, who rode the wide-spread opposition to the Cappuccitti plan when it was first proposed in 2003, to defeat then incumbent mayor Larry Keogh in the following municipal election, said he hasn't changed his mind about the scope and timing of the proposal.

"The development of this size is really planning our future. And it doesn't consider which communities should reasonably expect to get more growth. So when we start talking about that, I think we have to be careful and consider that too, that we're not scared off by the OMB because we're afraid of the cost of the OMB. We have a responsibilty as a Town that we make sure growth happens around the communities in a way we think is responsible and reflective of what are the needs of our community members and not running away from the boogeyman of the OMB so that we don't have to pay costs. I think we have a responsibility to set direction as a community and that's what gives me pause in regards to this."

Mayor MacEachern also had issues with a development of this magnitude having an impact on development applications that have spent years trying to get the Town's attention - only to be stymied because of service constraints and growth studies.

"What makes this particular development application, or sets it apart from all the other people who have properties and have come before us and decided that perhaps those lands should be considered for future development?" he asked. "All of those applications have come before us. When you say this development doesn't preclude the community moving in a certain direction, it certainly ties us in to where development is going to occur, not just up to 2031 but post 2031 as well. So we have to be careful in our conversation in order to understand that."

Mr. Barnett said the applications the mayor mentioned as examples are site specific.

"What you have here, is what we believe is a unique opportunity to take and plan for an area not just for one application, and one piece of land, but for an entire community. You have the ability to say 'this is what our vision is for how this community is going to grow for the next 30 or 40 years, " he said. "We're not proposing or looking to stepover, or step on those who are seeking to develop elsewhere in the Town as it is. ... This is not a giant coming in to step on what's there. Rather it's a proposal that seeks to develop and complement the developments that are there, and to provide, arguably, the customers to the commercial core in Beeton that aren't there today."

In the end, the motion moved by deputy mayor Milne to direct staff to deal with the proponents, was defeated, and the delegation simply "received."

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