Not good enough for Pelham? On March 22, Town Council said no to back-to-back townhouses in East Fonthill, and said no again on May 3. SUPPLIED

Lisa Haun-led vote may result in (another) LPAT challenge

Pelham Town Council voted last week to add its own amendment to a draft plan for a zoning bylaw change requested by a developer, which likely will not hold up in the face of a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) challenge.

Located within the East Fonthill Secondary Plan, Park Place South is a prospective subdivision east of Station Street and on the north side of Summersides Boulevard—more or less behind the Fonthill Sobeys.

An initial motion put forward by Councillor Marianne Stewart, seconded by Councillor Wayne Olson, was to endorse the developer’s revised draft plan and request to rezone the property from Agricultural (A) to site-specific R2 (Residential 2) to permit single detached dwellings, site specific RM1 (Residential Multiple 1) to permit back-to-back and street townhouse dwellings, and OS (Open Space) zones where a public walkway and parkland would be located.

A Town staff report, which endorsed the proposal, noted that changes to the draft plan were minor in nature, and required no further public meetings. Staff indicated that the subdivision plan and zoning bylaw amendment as proposed by the developer conformed to the Town Official Plan and was consistent with provincial policy and plans, and there were no objections from utilities and agencies to the proposal.

Park Place South, draft plan of subdivision. (Right-click to enlarge.) SUPPLIED

Controversy arose when Councillor Lisa Haun took exception to the design of the back-to-back townhouses, in that the design did not provide for backyards, and inside units would have access to sunlight only from the front. She described the design as “kind of cave-like,” and questioned how townhouse residents would deal with barbecues, patio chairs, and garbage cans, with no backyards.

“I’m actually in almost disbelief that from a safety perspective, the one way to enter and exit is through the front door,” asserted Haun, incorrectly. (Each unit also contains a garage door, as well as numerous windows.)

She put forward an amendment to the proposal, requiring the townhouse configuration to have blocks of four units versus blocks of eight units, with at least a three-metre side yard on either end of the units.

Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens told council that this type of townhouse has already been built in Grimsby, Lincoln, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls, but would be a first for Pelham.

“It is a type of housing form that is very good for the entry level home buyer, and provides them opportunity to get into the housing market,” Wiens said.

When asked about parkland and playground space in the development, Wiens responded that parkland dedication fees had been collected at the time of issuance of building permits, and were included in the design.

Olson voted against Haun’s amendment, noting, “I don’t think we should be dictating the market terms for this housing. There’s a need for it, and there’s demand for it. And I’m contented with the staff report.”

Stewart disagreed, saying, “I believe [council] need[s] to be the ones guiding the kind of development that we want for the town…that our current residents would be happy to accept into the town.” Councillor Bob Hildebrandt also had a problem with “allowing 40 back-to-back units, with 20 units being completely without side or rear windows, and only one entrance/exit with very little frontage.”

Councillors Haun, Stewart, Hildebrandt, and Ron Kore voted in favour of the amended motion, while Olson and Mayor Marvin Junkin were opposed. Councillor John Wink had declared a conflict of interest on the matter and did not vote. Haun’s amended motion passed.

Commenting afterword, Mayor Marvin Junkin told the Voice that Pelham needs more affordable housing.

“When Ms. Wiens assured Council that the same type of construction was occurring in other municipalities throughout the Region, I had no problem supporting this development,” said Junkin. “There is a critical housing shortage in the Region, and I can only assume that the developer has conducted market research for these types of units, and has found them acceptable to the buying public. If the developer has followed all zoning and planning regulations, which I am sure he has, then he will take his case to LPAT and win.”

Similarly, Councillor Wayne Olson remarked that he routinely gets communication from seniors who are looking for a place to live after they sell their family home, and also from young singles who are looking for a way to get a start in the real estate game.

“These are folks want to stay in their community. They do not want to cut grass or shovel snow. They want to pick up and go when they choose to do so. In fact, some people are becoming impatient because they cannot wait any longer for development to proceed,” he said.

Olson added that he was familiar with the design and style of townhouse being proposed, and that, “it is not really up to me to determine other people’s tastes for them. I feel certain of one thing: the people who live there will enjoy being citizens of Pelham, and they will have pride of ownership and take care of their investments.”

Asked for comment, Wiens said that council’s decision “introduces a significant change to the development plan, which may result in it not being in conformity to the Town Official Plan.” She underscored that while back-to-back townhouses are new to Pelham, they exist in many other Niagara municipalities, and contribute to providing housing options and choice.

Wiens explained that the Town Official Plan designates areas of East Fonthill as medium density, and while there is a policy that states single detached and semi-detached dwellings units may be permitted in the medium density designation, the policy specifies that they can only comprise up to 15 percent of the total dwelling units in a subdivision. In the plan of subdivision proposed by the developer, 12.4 percent of the units were single detached. Converting townhouse units to semi-detached units will result in a reduction in the number of townhouse units, which in turn will impact the ratio of single and semi-detached units.

It is likely, according to Wiens, that the amendment would cause the development to exceed the 15 percent threshold as established in the Official Plan, which would result in the development not being in conformity with the Official Plan. Other modifications by the developer would be required to ensure compliance. However, council’s decision on Monday did not direct other modifications to ensure compliance with the Town Official Plan.

“It is not as simple as switching out one unit type for another unit type,” cautioned Wiens.

 

RELATED: Voice editorial, Affordable housing in Pelham?

 

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