County council split on housing density in North Perth build

·6 min read

PERTH COUNTY – There were opposing views raised by Perth County council members regarding how to move forward with phase three of the Emerald Green subdivision during the May 20 council meeting.

Council was discussing the approval of an application to make a modification that would allow Gilmer Crescent to extend to the northerly limit of the property and end with a road stub in anticipation of potential future development of the adjoining lands. Gilmer Crescent currently extends from Rogers Road to the boundary of the phase three lands and contains 18 lots with single-family dwellings. Gilmer Crescent was not intended to continue northward in the original draft-approved plan; instead it transitioned into Bridge Court and terminated at a cul-du-sac.

On April 28, North Perth hosted a public information session to provide an opportunity for council and the public to discuss the proposed modification. Three members of the public registered ahead of the meeting to provide verbal comments and one letter was from a resident of Gilmer Crescent. The impact on area traffic as a result of this modification was the most noted concern.

The Listowel Ward Official Plan encourages future road connections between residential developments. These potential road connections keep residential lands from becoming isolated and avoid what is referred to as “looping and lollipopping” of streets caused by courts and crescents.

This also represents an efficient use of infrastructure – roads, water, wastewater – as the stub maintains a municipally-owned corridor to adjacent lands for services.

The focus of the discussion at Perth County council meeting was not on roads, services or potential traffic impact.

“My question is about the kind of houses that are going into this plan of subdivision,” said Coun. Rhonda Ehgoetz. “They are all low density. The Listowel Official Plan says it promotes a wide use of housing so I think that to do the next phase you should go back to the developer and ask to change some of the housing, that they put in some multi-residence and not just the 171 single-family housing.”

She suggested deferring approval of the modification until the developer is contacted about the type of housing in the Emerald Green.

“We did it in Perth East in the third phase of one of our subdivisions, we had the developer change the type of housing that was going in,” said Ehgoetz.

County Planner Sean Yilmaz said this is a historic draft approved plan so it is predominantly low density.

“They’ve met everything in their conditions to move this forward,” he said.

“I think what we have done is we created a plan just to start this stub,” said Coun. Doug Kellum. “I am not in favour of deferring this project. I would like to see it move forward this morning. Again, the planner and the developer have their I’s dotted and their T’s crossed and I think we should move forward with this.”

Ehgoetz said she understood what Kellum said but she put forward a motion to defer the decision until staff talk to the developer about looking into other types of housing.

“If we allow the road to go through then he’s not going to entertain the idea that it could be done so I think that it should be deferred,” she said. “I’d like to move that.”

Coun. Daryl Herlick seconded the motion.

Coun. Walter McKenzie suggested the wording in the motion should be a request for higher density housing.

“I want to take the opportunity to remind county council that this is an approved plan of subdivision and they are asking for a small variation,” said Coun. Todd Kasenberg. “This plan has been on the files for quite a while… and the developer could choose to abandon this particular change which… is in the interest of good planning and just go ahead and build as they were because it has been approved.”

He acknowledged that approval of the plan happened long before concerns about housing density became the norm.

“This time I think trying to push the developer towards higher density is a fool’s errand and as I said they could just pull the plug on this particular request for amendment and build as it is,” said Kasenberg. “I think we’re barking down the wrong road to consider deferral at this point.”

“Well the subdivision we had in Perth East was on the books for 20 years and the developer developed the first two phases and our planner… went to him before the third phase and said Perth East would like a variety of houses and that’s what our developer did,” said Ehgoetz. “So I think the developer should realize that this is what the municipalities need… We talk about affordable housing all the time and to me, this is not affordable housing when you are putting all single developments in a subdivision.”

Manager of Planning Sally McMullen said the comments from councillors have been received by staff.

“It is a historic subdivision – 1993 I believe – approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,” she said. “The experience in Perth East is one of success where 12 units were changed from singles into semis and that developer certainly was engaged and interested in that change at the time.”

McMullen said several modifications happened in the Perth East subdivision concerning different blocks, road stubs and a pathway for pedestrian access.

“These are old subdivisions, we have final phases in place,” she said. “The conversation could go either way. It would not change the process.”

McMullen said she thinks the county doesn’t have the teeth in its Official Plan to force the density.

“Now we have a target that’s described in words, not in numbers I guess is a good way to put it, rather than saying we are striving for a percentage of different housing types or we are striving for a percentage of affordability,” she said. “We don’t have those numbers in our current official plan.”

The new Official Plan will have those numbers and McMullen said it will have the teeth to make those changes possible, but the current plan does not.

“We have an opportunity perhaps to go have a conversation and negotiate but perhaps our position isn’t super strong,” she said. “I think we did have a success story in Perth East. We can’t say for sure that would unfold the same here.”

She said they have learned over the past few years that density in itself does not equal affordability.

“It is a much better efficient use of land and services,” said McMullen. “In and of itself it is not helping the community achieve our goal of affordability and attainability and we have more work to do there. We have to build partnerships and different strategies to make that happen. It is not something planning alone can solve to be quite honest.”

Kellum asked for a recorded vote on the motion to defer.

Coun. Doug Eidt, Kellum, Coun. Robert Wilhelm, Kasenberg, Coun. Walter McKenzie and Warden James Aitcheson all voted not to defer.

Coun. Hugh McDermitt, Herlick, Ehgoetz voted in favour of the motion to defer.

The weighted vote was 10-6 against the motion.

The vote to approve the modification to phase three of the Emerald Green subdivision flipped the voters giving a 10-6 vote in favour of allowing Gilmer Crescent to extend to the northerly limit of the property and end with a road stub.

“I guess that goes to show we need to get the Official Plan updated sooner,” said Aitcheson.

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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