St. Davids fields small army to fight Tawny Ridge development proposal

Residents of St. Davids are alarmed that continued development of residences on Tanbark and Warner roads could overwhelm the infrastructure of their village.

And they showed up in force on Tuesday night, packing a town planning meeting to voice their opposition to a developer’s plans to prepare the land for a four-storey apartment building as part of a new project called Tawny Ridge Estates.

“We’re not supportive of the Block 27 plan. Period,” St. Davids resident Terry Hickingbottom told councillors.

The development will take place in two distinct phases and will contain three types of residences, according to Craig Rohe, a planner from Upper Canada Consultants, representing Tawny Ridge.

These include 32 single-family homes, 24 townhouses and one four-storey apartment that is 13.5 metres (about 44 feet) tall and contains 30 units.

The apartment, referred to in Rohe’s presentation as Block 27, recieved the most pushback Tuesday night.

The developer is asking the town for zoning amendments to permit the proposed structures.

Rohe argued that the increased density of the proposal would promote “a mixed and range of housing opportunities.”

“As our communities are growing, we need to find ways to use land more efficiently and find opportunities for more affordable housing, more attainable housing,” he added.

It will also provide options for residents who wish to “age in place,” according to a justification report submitted with the application.

Hickingbottom said if he was going to age in place, “I want to live with my own driveway, my own garage, on a main floor, not with elevators and asphalt all around me.”

The proposed development would diversify the housing stock in St. Davids but, according to the justification report, “proposed dwellings are intended to be sold at market value and will likely not meet the definition of affordable housing.”

There might be “opportunities for attainable housing,” it adds.

“The requested high-density development will not meet the region’s strategy of housing for various income groups,” resident Gienek Ksiazkiewicz told the meeting.

Ksiazkiewicz pointed out that the existing condominiums behind the Avondale store in St. Davids are selling for more than $1.7 million.

“The developer purchased this property with the intent of making money. And the purpose of his zoning amendment request is to make more money,” he said.

He argued the developer would still make a “healthy profit” if council denied the request to rezone the properties.

Another resident, Bruno Laliberte, said developers are not being honest when they appeal to the province's affordable housing goals, enshrined in Bill 23.

“We believe that developers right now are using this as an excuse or justification to bully their way into small villages, communities and neighbourhoods, which they completely destroy,” he said.

Coun. Adriana Vizzari, who lives in St. Davids, said, “My main concerns would be if St. Davids currently has the infrastructure to support this much development.”

Her sentiments were shared by several residents who pointed to existing infrastructure problems with flooding, traffic, water pressure and recreational services.

“There’s no soccer pitches, no baseball fields, no basketball courts, no community centre. There are bare essentials in St. Davids,” Ksiazkiewicz added.

No additional parks are proposed as part of the Tawny Ridge Estates development plan.

Bill Krahn, another resident, shared a video he took of heavy rainfall in St. Davids.

“I’ve been here 10 years. I’ve witnessed the storms. I’ve seen the water come down Tanbark Road,” Krahn said.

His video showed severe flooding along Tanbark Road during a rainstorm. It elicited several laughs from the packed viewing gallery and a “Wow” from Coun. Gary Burroughs.

Donna Hatton shared Krahn’s concerns over the drainage issues in St. Davids.

Hatton pointed out Tanbark Road was below the escarpment and below the Queen Elizabeth Way.

“We feel the effects of all that surface water coming down,” she said.

Coun. Sandra O’Connor pointed out the town is experiencing increased rainfall due to climate change and needs to start planning much further into the future when designing storm sewers.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa agreed that there were infrastructure needs in St. Davids that needed to be addressed.

"There has to be a look at what we can do to get the water off the road and into the storm sewer system,” he said.

He added he was looking forward to hearing staff report on that issue.

“Stormwater management issues are not unique to that location,” Zalepa said.

That's because the standards they were built to did not account for impacts from climate change, he explained in an interview after council.

He added that the region is guiding the town when it comes to the infrastructure “standards they should be looking at for the future."

The residents were not moved by the fact the developer produced traffic studies at every stage of the application.

Rohe told council there will be “no impact on the existing transportation network.”

The planning justification report acknowledges there is no public transportation option servicing St. Davids.

It defends the location of the proposed apartment on the grounds that it is within walking distance of commercial services in the St. Davids village.

“The reality is we live in a society where generally two working people support a household,” said Mike Pearsall, speaking to council on behalf of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association.

With no “reliable regular transit options,” people in St. Davids “don’t have a choice,” except to have two cars, he said.

Councillors and residents spent almost three hours discussing the property and the viewing gallery was nearly empty when discussions finally wrapped up at around 9:30 pm.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report