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Housing development gets the gears

13/04/15 — It only took three votes from the usual culprits, and, unless it reverses itself, town council could find itself in another Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

Rejecting the recommendations of town staff and the proposal of the property owner, three councillors — Bob Steckley, Don Lubberts and Paul Collard — denied an application to make minor changes to lot boundaries in the Ridgeway By The Lake subdivision.

At issue is the proposed ownership of open space areas that would be treed buffer zones providing some privacy and esthetic appeal between backyard limits within Phase 3 of the project and for neighbours in Phase 2 and along Maple Leaf Avenue. [The changes are explained in detail with a picture on Page 3.]

Councillor John Hill did not participate in the discussion, declaring a conflict of interest “as I am a resident in that community.”

He lives in Phase 1 and participated in an OMB appeal against Phase 3. The appeal was withdrawn during the hearing in January 2010.

Phase 3 is located on the southern half of what was once the Thunder Bay Golf Course, and Hill protested the subdivision plan when it was first brought to council, saying he had bought his retirement house because it was advertised with a golf course in the backyard.

Bob Steckley and Don Lubberts spoke against the amendments. Paul Collard sided with them to tie the vote, which resulted in the defeat of the motion.

In the prelude to the split decision April 2, Steckley said the builder, Rob Mills, has used disreputable tactics to move ahead with the development.

“I still have concerns and it has to do with the bait and switch,” Steckley said.

“It seems that residents of Phase 1 and 2 were presented with a plan for Phase 3 that there was going to be walkways, going to be access for them, they were going to have use of it. Now as time goes on, we’re doing the bait and switch,” Steckley said.

Mills said he has exceeded requirements for green space in order to make the subdivision more acceptable to neighbours.

“Our intentions have been honorable all along to offer green space that we didn’t need to add,” he said.

The Town’s manager of development approvals, Kira Dolch, said walkways were never part of any plan that was submitted for approval.

Planning director Rick Brady said Mills’ solution is not the “best we’d like” but it’s a compromise that has been reached with residents in the other phases and Maple Leaf Avenue.

Mills had originally intended the buffer areas to be commonly owned by the residents’ association of all three phases, but homeowners in Phase 1 and 2 don’t want the lands.

While the areas will remain zoned as open space and building will be prohibited, Mills proposed the areas be sliced up and added to adjoining lots to be owned by individual property owners. That was the boundary adjustments he was seeking.

“All the people haven’t approved this,” said Steckley, “because I can assure you that I spoke to people — I heard councillor Lubberts say he spoke to some people as well — that are not in favour of this. So it’s not a unanimous decision and I don’t want you to get the impression that it is because I can guarantee you that it’s not.”

Mayor Doug Martin said the councillors’ complaints are part of a lingering protest over Phase 3 and the loss of the golf course and other unsaid matters.

“I don’t see the problem here,” he said. “The problem is something other than the application that is in front of us today.”

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