TBM development proposal given rough ride by council, public

·4 min read

A large development proposal in Thornbury received a rough ride from members of council and local residents at a public rezoning meeting.

The Blue Mountains council held the public meeting on July 11 to consider public comments about a proposed rezoning for the Blue Meadows development in Thornbury.

The proposal would see 191 total residential units, as well as two commercial buildings built on a property immediately next to Thornbury Foodland. The proposal also includes parkland, a community garden, internal streets, and a stormwater management facility.

The land where Blue Meadows is proposing to build is bordered by Arthur St. West, Alice St. West, and Landsdowne Street South. The 191 units would include 98 rowhouse units, two commercial buildings with ground floor commercial units and 75 residential units above, and 18 live/work freehold rowhouse units also with commercial space on the ground floor and two-storey units above.

The meeting was a combined effort with Grey County, which has approval authority for the subdivision application and the town, which has approval authority over the rezoning application.

The scale and density of the proposed development generated significant public interest and criticism. Council received multiple letters from local residents indicating concerns about the density of the project as well as concerns such as traffic, parking and servicing.

Several speakers also addressed council and expressed concern and opposition to the proposal as presented. Council members also expressed reservations about the development.

“I don’t see how something of this magnitude fits into the core of the neighbourhood where we are,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon.

Mayor Alar Soever said, at this point in the process, the proposal does not mention affordable or attainable housing. He praised the developer for including a mixture of housing options in the proposal including smaller apartments above the commercial buildings, rowhouse units and live/work freehold rowhouse units. However, Soever pointed out that town, county and provincial planning policies call for conversations and consideration of affordable and attainable housing and he asked for an estimated price range for the units.

“If we’re not given an idea of what the price of these units are, how can we carry out this responsibility given to us in the Planning Act? It is a heavy responsibility. I realize it’s not easy, but we have to start changing the conversation,” said Soever.

Planning consultant Miriam Vasni said an estimated cost per unit wasn’t possible at this time.

“You’re asking us to give an answer into the future,” she said.

Proponent Shekar Dalal said with interest rates and labour issues it was difficult to project costs per unit this early in the process.

“Definitely, we’d like to consider this option,” he said of affordable housing and pledged to work with the town on the matter.

Coun. Paula Hope said the developers have work to do to get their proposal to fit into the community.

“Character is the number one concern in the community,” said Hope. “I would encourage you to take a close look at that. I don’t think it’s there.”

Local residents echoed Hope’s concerns.

“We’d like to see development that fits the character of Thornbury,” said neighbour Robert Mitchell, who owns a 140-year-old brick house on a separate lot in the middle of the proposed development. “Do you want a suburb in Thornbury? Character is a value worth protecting.”

Neighbour Melissa Hutton indicated concerns about density. She noted on the sketch of the proposed development it had a seven-unit building facing an existing three-unit building across Alice Street in the Far Hills development.

“My problem is the density. It’s not even comparable,” said Hutton. “One hundred and ninety-one units is excessive.”

Architect Montogomery King spoke at the meeting and said the proponents would return with revisions to the proposal. He said the proponents would be trying to bring affordability to the project.

“Today was most helpful in gaining comments from the town and the public. Today was a learning exercise. We’ll go back and do our work,” he said.

Senior town planner Shawn Postma said staff would be reviewing all the comments from the public and council and there is considerable review to come. Postma said if there are substantial revisions to the proposals, a second public meeting could be required.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca

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