A long-time homeowner in a rural setting had concerns about plans to develop an area immediately adjacent to his property. The site is in a small Ontario city with a population of less than 25,000 that is experiencing growth pressures due to its proximity to a major urban centre. While the site is within the settlement area, this large-scale greenfield development will expand the City into an area that is currently being used for farming. The homeowner is worried about the size of an apartment block proposed next to his house.
Aerial view of proposed subdivision plan
On April 17, 2018, the City approved a subdivision application and adopted an amendment to its Official Plan for a 40-hectare greenfield development put forward by a well-established developer in the region. A zoning by-law amendment was also approved for the site.
The subdivision application proposed 245 detached dwellings, 180 semi detached and row houses, and two blocks of low-rise apartment buildings. The apartment blocks were proposed on the outer-edge of the site, on what is currently a farmer’s field. Adjacent to the proposed apartments were two existing low-rise homes.
The planning issue
The homeowner adjacent to one of the apartment blocks, a resident for the past 42 years, was concerned with how the new five-storey, low-rise building, might affect his day-to-day living experience. Based on the approved zoning, the apartment buildings on the block beside him could be built with only a minimum setback from his property of three metres, and up to a maximum height of 20 metres.
The resident contacted LPASC to determine if he had a case for an appeal. LPASC helped to identify aspects of the planning application that were inconsistent with the transition policies of the City’s Official Plan. An appeal was filed with respect to the apartment block, based on its poor transition with the adjacent uses.
LPASC planners saw that there were alternative design opportunities that could keep the same number of units as were proposed in the overall development and provide a better transition between the development and the adjacent properties. LPASC facilitated meetings with the applicant and the municipality and proposed ways in which the plan could be changed. Throughout the process, LPASC encouraged the appellant to be open to the opportunity for a mediated settlement, given there was good potential for the developer to adjust both the setback for the development and the building height.
Upon receiving the appeal, the municipality proposed an early dispute resolution process to the appellant and the applicant. By exercising this option under the Planning Act, the municipality was granted 75 days to resolve the issue at the local level without having to send the appeal to the LPAT, which normally must be submitted within 15 days.
Through the dispute resolution process, several design options were discussed with the developer. A site-specific zoning by-law for the apartment block was put forward to address the transition issues. Setback requirements moved from three metres (all sides), to 15 metres on the west property line, and six metres for the part of the south property line that approaches the west. The amendment also included an agreement that the building that was to be constructed adjacent to the appellant would be no higher than three storeys.
LPASC’s suggestions for buffering features resulted in adding an eight-foot opaque fence and a cedar hedge on the west side of the site to the amended plans.
In the end, the municipality, the developer and the appellant were satisfied with the results of the early dispute resolution, and the appellant withdrew his appeal.
Important elements of the case
- The City used the early dispute resolution tools in the Planning Act to allow the parties time to try to resolve the issue, thereby eliminating the cost and need for a hearing.
- LPASC planners were able to look at the development proposal with an eye for design and solutions to land use planning issues.
- Communication and public involvement is critical to the best decisions and outcomes for land use planning.