Township answers appeal filed against Sunderland subdivision

Brock Township will answer an appeal filed against council’s decision to allow an additional 61 homes in a controversial subdivision in the village.

Back in September, the law firm of Davies Howe filed an appeal on behalf of the Jay Yerema-Weafer and the ‘Concerned Citizens of Sunderland’ regarding a zoning amendment that would allow the Kaitlin Corporation to build 268 homes in the second phase of construction, an increase from the 207 initially approved.

The appeal – which will be heard by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), formerly known as the Ontario Municipal Board – has been deemed valid.

The municipality submitted a response on Friday (Dec. 7), with a further filing slated for Dec. 17.

Members of council posed numerous questions about the appeal during Monday’s (Dec. 10) council meeting even though the matter was not included on the agenda.

As the decision to rezone the property came during the previous term of council, Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden noted that the current crop of local politicians inherited a “quagmire.”

She asked whether council was in a position to repeal the bylaw.

“Basically, the short answer is ‘No.’ The bylaw is no longer in your hands. It’s in the exclusive jurisdiction of the LPAT,” responded CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby, who noted that the Township solicitor provided him with that opinion.

Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer added that the Township’s costs related to the appeal will be covered by the developer.

“I’ve seen it plastered all over Facebook that Brock Township taxpayers will be on the hook for costs and it’s incorrect,” he said.

“The costs will be covered by the applicant,” Gettinby confirmed.

The discussion seemed to irk Regional Councillor Ted Smith, who chastised his colleagues for addressing what he called a “Facebook issue.”

“If it was that big a deal, they should have been here today,” he said.

He also questioned the membership of the citizens group.

“By no means do they represent all the citizens of Sunderland.”

Despite those sentiments from Coun. Smith – who is one of only two returning members from last term – Mayor Bath-Hadden expressed an interest in working with residents and the company to reach an agreement that would be suitable for all parties.

“I’m hopeful for a happy resolution,” she said, adding that she plans on meeting with company officials in the coming weeks.

“I’ll try to remain optimistic,” added Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell, the lone member that opposed rezoning during the last term.

While Coun. Campbell brought forward a motion calling for the Township’s lawyer to provide a legal opinion on the appeal in writing, it might not be released publicly due to solicitor/client privilege.

Concerns raised in the appeal relate to density, compatibility, traffic, adequacy of water and wastewater infrastructure and protection of the environment.

The appeal notes that the village is currently without a back-up well and that residents have been asked to conserve water for several months.

“Water and wastewater servicing in Sunderland is a Regional responsibility. Given that the Region has not yet identified alternative means to provide sufficient servicing capacity for Phase 2 of the Draft Plan as originally approved, it is certainly not appropriate to direct additional growth and density to the subject lands,” it reads.

It also argues that “adequate community services” do not currently exist in the Township to service the additional population permitted through the bylaw.

As well, the appeal takes issue with municipal politicians refusing to ask the developer for a financial contribution to help account for the increased density under Section 37 of the Planning Act.

“The Township’s failure to exercise its authority to require a Section 37 contribution results in a zoning bylaw which does not conform with the objectives of the Township Official Plan respecting complete communities and the provision of adequate public services. Requiring the applicant to contribute public benefits in exchange for the additional density permitted through the zoning bylaw would have allowed for the Township to improve its limited community services and recreational opportunities. This would have helped accommodate the additional population, as is directed by the Provincial policies referred to above, as well as the Township Official Plan policies,” it reads.

It’s just the latest round in residents’ fight against the development.

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.

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