Council does not appeal committee of adjustment decision, despite Sebben’s push

A development at 161 Nelson St. will be moving forward without the City of Stratford appealing, despite a homeowner petitioning council to do so.

Jean-Michel Chadillon, a homeowner on the street, delegated at a special city council meeting June 3 with a petition that he said was signed by every homeowner on the affected stretch of Nelson Street.

He and his neighbours are concerned about the development and wanted city council to appeal the committee of adjustment decision.

Chadillon said the proposed development, which is suggesting six units, is not in line with the current density of the street. He pointed out that between West Gore Street and Cambria Street, Nelson Street is short with only 10 residential properties on it, eight of them being single-family homes.

He also said the scope of development was not clear in the public notice the neighbours were sent and there wasn’t adequate time for neighbours to fully understand the proposal from what was given to them.

“We also seek an evaluation to be done on the cultural and historical significance of 161 Nelson St.” Chadillon said. “Since the structure is slated for demolition, it would be unfortunate to tear it down without fully knowing the history of the property.

“We are not anti-development, but want transparency and collaboration with the developers to ensure a mutually beneficial result.”

At the committee meeting, Chadillon said neighbours had concerns with waste management, arguing there would not be enough space for garbage bins on the property for six units, and that there isn’t enough parking. Currently, the proposal outlines eight parking spaces in tandem.

“Tandem parking is controversial,” Chadillon said. “Neighbours will block neighbours in. If someone needs to get to work at 7 a.m. and someone's blocking them in, there will be issues and our concern is that parking will spill onto the street causing traffic and unsafe areas for our children to play.”

After Chadillon’s presentation, councillors expressed sympathy for Chadillon, but many pointed out there is a housing crisis in the country and in Stratford.

Coun. Taylor Briscoe said municipalities are in a bind at the moment, having to balance preserving communities and building much needed housing. She said cities need to show ample housing already being built to be eligible for money from the housing accelerator fund, a necessary boon if the city wants to build affordable housing.

Additionally, any development under 10 units, per provincial legislation, does not need to share site plans with municipalities, Briscoe said, which is why a detailed scope of development was not available.

“This issue raises a challenge for council because we’re bound by provincial law,” Coun. Mark Hunter said. “And our professional planners are telling us, in their professional opinion, the province would allow this development. If we take this to the (Ontario Land Tribunal), there's a strong – a very strong – possibility that we would lose an appeal.

“It creates a real challenge for us to spend money that has very little chance of getting the outcome that we'd be seeking.”

He and Briscoe both said they share the delegate’s frustration, with Hunter saying the best course of action would be to lobby the provincial government, which created the rules, rather than pushing back on the rules in tribunal.

Coun. Cody Sebben, on the other hand, agreed with the delegation. Bottom line, he said, the proposal does not meet the city’s current official plan, though Adam Betteridge, the city’s building and planning director, later said the zoning bylaw and official plan allows for a semi-detached dwelling to be established in this neighbourhood and the tandem parking is also suitable for the development, per the province.

Still, Sebben said the development does not fit the street and the city represents the citizens on the street, not the developer.

“We represent people in the city. We should be advocating for that rather than doubling the units that would normally (be), and even provincially legislated to be, allowed on that piece of land. So I don't support the decision. I do think we should appeal.”

Coun. Geza Wordofa seconded Sebben’s motion to appeal, but did not garner further support.

Coun. Jo-Dee Burbach did not support the motion, saying they have their hands tied considering provincial legislation supersedes the bylaw and official plan.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times