Controversial Sunderland subdivision back in the spotlight on Monday

Township council is set to deal with a pair of issues Monday (Aug. 13) pertaining to a controversial subdivision in Sunderland.

Despite numerous concerns raised by residents, local politicians approved a zoning amendment last October that would allow 61 more homes in the property being developed by the Kaitlin Corporation adjacent to the village’s fairgrounds. A bylaw bringing that change into effect is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, which gets underway at 7 p.m., as well as a letter referencing the company’s offer to purchase 2.5 acres of parkland, ostensibly in support of the Sunderland Lions Club’s plan to expand the local arena.

Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell – the lone member to vote against the zoning amendment — said she intends to bring forward a motion to deny the offer.

“As much as many of us want Sunderland arena to be renovated, nobody wants to pay for it by sacrificing parkland,” she said in an interview.

The parkland offer was outlined in a report discussed by council back at the tail end of June.

“Kaitlin Corporation has proposed that the municipality consider selling a portion of the parkland dedicated north of the existing fairgrounds as part of the registration of Phase 1 representing approximately 2.5 acres. The sale price would be based on its full market value as determined by a certified appraiser. In return, the municipality would receive five acres of land located to the north of Phase 2 outside the designated urban boundary,” the report reads.

It estimated that the company would be able to develop close to two dozen additional units, with all proceeds of the sale being used to support the arena project.

“The Kaitlin Corporation would receive development rights to approximately 2.5 acres of land within the urban area while transferring lands within the Greenbelt Protected Area. Obviously, this would be considered a substantial financial benefit to Kaitlin; based on the proposed density of the Phase 2 lands, this could equate to 23 units,” the report reads.

“The Township would receive compensation on the sale of parkland immediately upon the transfer based on the highest and best use of the land as determined by a certified appraiser. It should also be noted that this benefit could also be realized by a sale to a third party as there would be significant demand for developable parcels within the urban boundary. In addition, the municipality would receive a further five acres of land in close proximity to those homes proposed as part of Phase 2 of the development. It is recognized that the developer would likely charge a premium of those lots abutting the park. Further, it would be intended, through a tri-partite agreement with the Lions Club, that the funds would be devoted to the Sunderland arena project.”

At the time, members of council forwarded the proposal to the Lions Club for input and the organization has provided a response in a letter to the Township that will be discussed on Monday.

Referring to the offer as “unexpected,” the letter asks the municipality to undertake a formal public consultation process before taking action.

“Our club was merely seeking to establish whether or not Kaitlin might be required to contribute to the arena project pursuant to Section 37 of the Planning Act, or alternatively, make a financial contribution on their own to the project,” the letter from club president Dale St. John concludes.

Section 37 allows a municipality to ask for benefits to construct or improve facilities – such as arenas – when a development requires a zoning bylaw amendment.

Such a possibility was not referenced in the staff report discussed by council back in June.

These two issues are just the latest bit of controversy to envelop the project.

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 – spread 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 to 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 but those concerns have not abated.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting on the zoning bylaw amendment in June of last year and all those that spoke on the evening were opposed to the proposal.