Rezoning process must restart for Village of Hope

·5 min read

Environmental concerns evaporated at West Nipissing council this week when the Genesis Village of Hope project came back to the table.

Last month, council deferred a vote on the group home proposal for a strip of land between Old Highway 17 and the Veuve River in Verner. Issues raised by adjacent landowners and a petition signed by almost 100 other area residents gave them pause even though the planning advisory committee recommended the sought after amendment to the zoning bylaw.

Worries focused on water and waste management for the proposed use, which included a dozen dwelling units and barn for animals. The property drains into the Veuve River, a source of drinking water in the area.

The proponent, through recent correspondence and a preliminary assessment report, addressed most of the issues and clarified others about number of people and type of animals.

But staff recommended that the rezoning amendment process be restarted from the beginning because of a clerical error in regard to giving area residents minimum notice.

Clerk/Planner Melanie Ducharme told council that letters went to the required property owners in the area but a sign had not been posted on the property as required. Some residents not living close to the property said they didn’t know about the rezoning application.

“In light of the neighbourhood concerns, the clerical error of which I have now become aware, as well as the new information which has been received from the proponent,” Ducharme stated in her report, “I am recommending that Council refer the matter back to the Planning Advisory Committee and that the original Notice of Application be re-circulated.”

Ducharme also recommended that it go beyond the minimum and also to “any other person(s) who have indicated that they wish to be notified in writing.”

The next PAC meeting is Dec. 14 or Jan. 14, 2021, she advised.

Mayor Joanne Savage wanted to know if councillors had anything to say about the environmental concerns that led to the deferral but no one spoke up.

Jay Barbeau, chief administrative officer, suggested that the proper procedure would be to follow the staff recommendation so the planning committee “gets a second kick at it.”

Council was told any other discussion or decision at this stage, without restarting the process, would provide a reason for someone to appeal the eventual decision.

Niluka Johnson, of Genesis, wrote council about the project after the deferral to clarify their intent and scope of activity so residents had a better understanding of their project.

“Providing pet therapy to our residents is the key purpose for developing a hobby farm,” she said. “We are not an agricultural operation and have no intentions of having a fully operational farm with larger livestock like cows or horses.”

The 1,500-square-foot barn will mostly accommodate a workshop for things like woodworking and storage space with about 650 square feet to house a few smaller livestock, she said.

The “pets” will include two pygmy goats, four or five chickens, about three ducks and five rabbits, council was told.

As for the number of youth at-risk for homelessness, mentors and staff to reside there, Johnson said there will only be 12 “tiny house” units of 220-square-feet each (eight for young adults needing support) and four units for live-in mentors. In addition, up to four support staff will live in a 3,000-square-foot “Community Hub Building” which will also function as a place of common gathering area and place of worship.

“We also want to clarify that we are not a rehabilitation centre, we are not a homeless shelter and we are not a half-way house,” she said, noting that they will carefully assess referrals.

“We go above and beyond in executing safety protocols and have a zero-tolerance policy to drugs or alcohol on our property,” she said. “Our project is designed to create preventative measures to homelessness and offer housing support to those needing extra care such as those exiting the foster care system and those with mild developmental delays.”

Johnson said deterring young people from crime and drug use “as seen in places like North Bay” which is “dealing with an opioid crisis is one of our endeavours.”

Attached to the Genesis correspondence was a Nov. 11 letter from Miller & Urso of North Bay, which conducted an initial review of the proposal.

Potable water will come from one or two wells, sufficient for the planned uses, they concluded, with the soils, topography and plans for septic also meeting standards ands set backs.

“The small amount of livestock that will be kept on the property will generate less than 2.5 cubic metres of manure per year. This will be managed on the property through properly constructed storage and composting facilities to prevent runoff contamination, and will be used as fertilizer for gardening and greenhouse activities,” they said.

As for runoff, Miller & Urso said their plan to collect and re-use rainwater will keep flows similar to pre-development levels.

Related Story: Opposition mounting against Village of Hope development

As reported last month, Jacques and Roxanne Proulx, who live beside the Genesis property, described their concerns in a letter to the planning committee and council.

“This project would greatly affect the safety and privacy of our residence and our family,” their letter dated September 22 stated. “There is talk about having troubled youth living here. We have two small children and the idea of having multiple troubled youth so close to us is a concern … Do they intend to fence their entire property?”

The Proulx’s said they hoped to raise their family in a “quiet, country setting, in a rural area, on a dirt road with minimal neighbours around.

“We are not just talking about adding one couple or one family as our neighbours. We are talking about multiple people living and working here,” they stated.

Property value loss was raised as well due to the nature of the group home service and hobby farm smells.

“The value of our home will most likely also be greatly affected by this. If ever we wanted to sell in the future, no one will want to buy a quiet, country home beside a community living residence,” they said.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca