Zoning notice signs on the lawn of 20 Alan Crescent. JOHN CHICK PHOTO

Town meeting on Alan Crescent request set for next Tuesday

In what he has described as “ground zero” for a potential open season on residential zoning challenges in Pelham, a Fonthill resident is fighting a proposal to split a neighbouring property in order to build a second house in what is now a backyard.

Highland Avenue homeowner Robert Jensen and three other neighbours received a zoning bylaw amendment request in early December for the property at 20 Alan Crescent. In it, the developer who owns the corner lot has proposed severing it, and adding a 433 square-metre lot for a single-detached home fronting Elizabeth Drive.

Jensen, whose property borders the land in question to the west, wasn’t happy.

“It’s got the whole neighbourhood up in arms and everbody’s pissed off, because if this happens and they let a small lot like this be created, he could split it again,” Jensen told the Voice last week.

The existing lot is presently 1,268 square meters, according to a Planning Justification Report prepared for the developer, Tony Mancini, which Jensen provided to the Voice. The immediate neighbourhood is currently zoned R1, which is for single dwellings only, with a minimum lot size of 700 square meters. As such, any deviation from these minimums requires a zoning bylaw amendment —a request which is set to be heard by the Town’s Committee of Adjustment next Tuesday, January 14.

“If he’s able to put an R2 lot in an R1 neighbourhood, then all these lots are susceptible,” Jensen said. “He’s using justification in the report like urban intensification, and he’s making comparisons to other properties in the neighbourhood, but he’s talking about where there are R2 properties, over on Church Hill.”

Pelham — with its relatively large residential lot sizes and outdated zoning bylaws (which were written in 1987) —could be seeing the dawn of an onslaught of these sorts of zoning proposals. With the provincial government aiming to mandate higher population density, and developers eyeing the area given its relative affordability compared to the GTA, it may be only a matter of time before second homes start popping up on what were formerly single-residence lots.

“They’re getting to the point where the property is worth more than the home,” Jensen said.

For some residents in the more mature neighbourhoods of Fonthill, it’s concerning.

“[They will] come into an established subdivision, like this one is, and just decimate it,” Daleview Drive resident Jim Wesley said in Jensen’s backyard.

Jensen added that the provincial push towards higher density doesn’t mean that existing larger lots need to be subdivided.

“The province wants municipalities and towns to have their own plans,” he said, pointing out that newer areas like East Fonthill are fine, because they are planned and built to higher density specifications.

“They don’t need to start doing it [in established neighbourhoods] to meet their provincial goals.”

Town CAO David Cribbs has previously called for an update to Pelham’s 33-year-old zoning bylaws, and echoed this when reached by the Voice.

“The current bylaw is valid,” Cribbs said. “That being said, I have gone on record at multiple council meetings advising council that in my opinion it is overdue for a full update. This was a key component of the business case for the new policy planner position, which council approved, in December, for the 2020 budget.  The Town has advertised the position and will be interviewing in January or February.”

Constructing a second house on the Alan Crescent lot would see its wall placed right on Jensen’s property line, eliminating morning sunlight, privacy and any view from the sloped landscape.

“The big concern for me is he’s re-orienting the lot, so instead of being 7.5 metres from my fence, he wants to build a house on the line,” Jensen said. “If I had known there’d be a house there and had a choice, I could have moved everything [on my property] closer to Highland and planted trees back here.”

Despite his concern, Jensen feels there’s a good chance the application will be denied, and expects several neighbourhood residents to attend the meeting at Town Hall.

“I’ve looked at cases where they’ve approved people or given them the variance, and they’re only giving them the variance in cases where they want to build a deck or something,” he said.