Six builds hop queue to reach finish line through Midland planning staff

·4 min read

An interesting bit of legislation happened in Midland recently for those curious about planning and development changes.

Six legacy file site plans were granted delegation of authority to Midland planning staff at a recent meeting of regular council, with the intention to approve some backlogged properties for the 2022 building season sooner than having to wait for council approval later.

Adam Farr, executive director of planning, building and bylaw, praised planning staff for sifting through files dating back as far as 2017, and gaining traction on moving the projects forward.

“We find when the applications are of this nature – not necessarily controversial, but where the applicants really want to get over that finish line – that at times the queuing schedule to get that report to council adds another four-to-six weeks to the process,” noted Farr, “and we’re finding that applicants are agitated right now.”

The six site plans include:

* 714 Balm Beach Road, expansion of four buildings on self-storage facility;

* 16928 Highway 12, hotel and convention centre;

* 952 Jones Road, construction of a restaurant and multi-tenanted commercial building:

* 786 William Street, construction of two residential apartment buildings;

* 16621 Highway 12, construction of a gas station, with retail store and restaurant;

* 658 King Street, phase two of the Jarlette retirement home

Farr used the Jarlette property as an example of fine-tuning which doesn't necessarily require the lengthy queue to council approval. He described how approval was granted for a chain-link fence along the sidewalk boundary.

“It’s less desirable when you’re trying to achieve a continuous aesthetically-pleasing built form,” Farr admitted.

“Through discussions with that applicant looking from a design and community-minded perspective, (planning services manager Steven Farquharson) was able to get an agreement from them – it’s not something that they were required to do; it’s something that they voluntarily stepped forward to do – a masonry-pillared decorative wrought-iron fence at the street.”

Coun. Cher Cunningham supported the delegation while noting that by allowing council to give final approval, they would also be able to hear the stories of how the properties came to be and what they would be used for in the future.

Coun. Jonathan Main responded that he would be comfortable with the delegation of authority in the six instances to staff, but would be more comfortable with council as the decider.

However, Farr cautioned council about Bill 109, More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022, one consequence of which would delegate full authority of site plan approvals to municipal staff instead of councils.

“The premise behind it,” Farr explained, “appears to be to speed things through the site plan process on the basis that real public consultation is more appropriately oriented around official plan amendment and draft plan of subdivision type of applications where individuals in the public can actually appeal the outcomes; there is no right of appeal around site plans. So the notion is that it’s an implementation type of Planning Act process.”

Farr stated that staff looking at how Midland handles site plans preferred to focus more on public engagement in the zoning bylaw stage.

“Legally, some of the significant provisions that can be incorporated into site design and massing location of buildings are really affected through zoning, and less so through site plan,” Farr added.

Bill 109 passed by the Legislature and received Royal Assent on April 14, shortly after Midland council approval.

Farr informed council beforehand that should the Bill pass, “it would also require some procedural changes within the administration to address whatever the associated provisions are in that legislation.”

Earlier in the month, the city of Hamilton also expressed concern toward the implications of Bill 109 during a special meeting of council.

To conclude the Midland discussion, Coun. Bill Gordon inquired to the exclusion of the Kaitlin Corporation property at Bayport Village subdivision, which had been a cause for concern with some residents recently. Farr replied that the subdivision had been approved and did not require delegation of authority to staff as per the motion before council.

“I, like you, have also heard from our residents,” stated Farr. “We’re focused on moving forward, trying to find (several basis) wherever possible to move through the process, get into an approval state. And that’s a two-way street. We require Kaitlin’s cooperation, and we’ve tried to set things up so that is possible.

“We continue to take that perspective and share that perspective with the public when they contact us. So we would like to see that brought to a conclusion as well, I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

The report regarding delegation to staff of certain planning and development approvals is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.

Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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