Brock councillors approve additional homes in Sunderland subdivision

Following a raucous exchange with concerned residents, Brock Township councillors voted 6-1 to approve a zoning amendment that would allow 61 additional homes in the Kaitlin subdivision in Sunderland.

After a dozen deputations from the public, as well as another from a representative of the developer, Ward 4 Councillor Therese Miller put forward a motion to approve the proposed changes.

“This is an opportunity…to welcome 61 more families to our friendly community of Sunderland,” she said, much to the displeasure of local residents.

The motion was eventually carried, with the lone vote in opposition being cast by Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell.

Coun. Campbell, in her brief comments, noted that she had heard from more than 100 residents who were against the development and needed to vote accordingly.

“I have to represent the majority,” she said.

Coun. Miller, however, pointed out that although it seemed that everyone in attendance was opposed to the amendment, the meeting only hosted about 10 per cent of the village’s population.

She also noted, throughout the evening, that the proposed amendment would not push the limits on residential density, nor did she feel it would negatively impact local schools.

Members of council also noted that neither of the area school boards objected to the proposal.

“There’s not one merchant I’ve spoken to that opposes this,” said Regional Councillor Ted Smith.

When it was his turn to take the microphone, Mayor John Grant emphasized statements in the staff report that indicate the amendment was in line with all provincial plans and policies, as well as the Brock Township Official Plan.

“This meets all the tests,” he said, noting that the second phase of construction can’t proceed until water and sewer capacity is expanded in the village and a road is built connecting the subdivision to Highway 12.

He also that final approval for the plan of subdivision will be granted by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Immediately after the vote by council – prior to the adjournment of the meeting – roughly half of the 100 residents in attendance for the meeting walked out, clearly illustrating their displeasure.

Close to 20 residents formally spoke against the proposal throughout the course of the meeting, with several urging local politicians to deny the application.

“High density housing does not belong in Sunderland,” said Ralph Maleus.

“Be a voice for the people, not the developer,” added Jay Yerema-Weafer.

Almost all that spoke said the addition of even more homes to the project’s second phase would have a negative impact on the community overall.

“This is the most important meeting ever for our community…These are the people you represent. Not the Region. Not Kaitlin. Look directly into their eyes and consider your choices,” Denise Wilson cautioned members of council.

“I don’t understand what this does for our community,” said Sheryl Bunting.

“If we’re not benefiting, why is this even being considered?”

Jen Parsons said she was particularly concerned about the expanded subdivision causing potential enrolment challenges at Sunderland Public School.

“A community is more than houses…I support development but not at the expense of our kids or our town,” she said.

Throughout the evening, several residents touched on the history of the development and the attempts of residents to scale back the number of homes.

When first proposed back in 2004, it included roughly 300 homes – as well as a championship golf course featuring a year-round banquet facility and clubhouse – over more than 270 acres.

Due to the Province’s Greenbelt legislation, which essentially halted development outside of the established urban boundary, the proposal was altered to include 345 homes over 68 acres.

There were other substantial changes to the design prior a pair of public meetings in the summer of 2005 and January of the following year and it was revised yet again before township council granted approval in February 2007, followed by regional council.

Billing themselves as the Concerned Citizens of Sunderland, a group of residents filed an to the Ontario Municipal Board, citing concerns with the overall design of the subdivision and its integration into the existing community, use of green space, the environmental impact the development could have, as well as the limited water and sewer capacity.

An agreement between the group and the developer was reached in a mediation session in February 2008 that allowed the project to proceed.

“We have an OMB agreement we had to fight for…this is totally in contempt of that agreement,” Yerema-Weafer said of the revisions.

“It was an agreement made through compromise and it was a good one,” added Richard Yerema, saying the changes approved by council would turn Sunderland into a “bedroom community.”

Rob Weafer noted that there are dozens of residents, him included, who have more than a decade fighting various aspects of the development.

“It’s been a never-ending battle and I’m sick and goddamn tired of it. I want you all to know that,” he told members of council and township staff.

Peter Pushkarna, a new resident of Sunderland, said while he has enjoyed living in the community, he is disheartened by the Township’s and the developer’s approach to the process.

“No one here is opposed to growth but I think it has to be done in a methodical, well-thought out plan,” he said.

“If I had known that this was an issue, I would never have purchased a Kaitlin home.”

In addition to the revisions being sought, a consulting firm retained by the company submitted a letter to the Province requesting an additional 74.5 hectares owned by the company be included in the village’s urban boundary to allow more homes to be built.

“Doing so would provide the Township of Brock with the flexibility to determine, in conjunction with the region, where growth could occur in the future. In the current planning context, Sunderland has no room to grow because the greenbelt boundary directly abuts the urban area,” the letter, which was discussed by township council in March, reads.

The land in question has been designated as protected countryside in the Province’s Greenbelt Plan and is immediately adjacent to the company’s 35.6-hectare property that is currently under construction.

The letter was submitted as part of the Province’s recently concluded review of planning legislation, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt Plan.