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Staff recommend approval of 58 towns on Ghent

To committee March 25; council April 8

Some 100 trees and bushes on the property, and four city street trees, will need to be removed to accommodate the development
Some 100 trees and bushes on the property, and four city street trees, will need to be removed to accommodate the development

Planning staff are recommending approval of 58-townhouses by Branthaven on eight assembled properties on Ghent Ave. The 28 three-storey back-to-back and 30 two-storey standard townhomes will replace the existing eight single family homes.

The project is just under the density limits of 50 units/ha in the Official Plan. Townhouses (standard and back-to-back) are both permitted built forms under the Official Plan Residential-Medium Density designation on the properties. As such, no amendment to the Official Plan is required.

However, the project does require rezoning to allow townhouses. There is a variety of zoning on the eight properties. Some permit single family homes, semi-detached, duplexes, triplexes, or four-story retirement homes, and the most easterly ones permit only detached and semi-detached homes. Townhouses are not currently permitted.

Residents have raised a number of concerns, particularly about storm water runoff and ground water flooding in adjacent basements, the scale and density of the project, impacts on the character of the community, and removal of trees and greenspace to fit the development in.

Ground & Storm Water Concerns

Storm water will be collected onsite and directed to a holding tank that will drain into Rambo Creek. The tank capacity is 84 cubic metres, the size to handle a five year storm event. Residents wanted the tank to be built for a 100 year storm event, at 180 cm.

Branthaven’s stormwater plan was reviewed by a third party engineer (AMEC)hired by the city, who concluded that “reconsideration is required of the design of the stormwater management tank on the property.” Specifically they note that “the effectiveness of the storm water tank may be influenced by potential high water levels in the Rambo Creek due to high water events, and may flood basements of the townhouses immediately adjacent to the tank.” AMEC also added there is unlikely to be an increase of groundwater levels outside of the Branthaven property.

Additional information on water, wastewater and storm water management will be required at the site plan stage, if the rezoning is approved.

Loss of Greenspace

Some 100 trees and bushes on the property, and four city street trees, will need to be removed to accommodate the development. The city trees will be replaced by five trees of 100mm caliper, and 60 trees will be planted onsite. Branthaven will also contribute $1,425 for the city tree loss.

The applicant’s vegetation management plan focuses on preserving the existing mature trees, where possible, along the southerly property boundary.

Greenspace now covers 72% of the eight properties. Proposed greenspace under new project will be about half that: 38%. See stormwater management report here for calculations of lot coverage (via roads and buildings) and greenspace.

Impacts to the character of the community

A key concern in the community is the replacement of 8 single family homes, on large lots, with mature vegetation, with a built form (townhouses) that is not permitted in the zoning. Though the Official Plan sets the broad parameters for development, the zoning sets out the specifics of how that might be achieved, and they work together to guide development. Having strong zoning in place – and following it – is critical to retaining community character.

A recent case at the Ontario Municipal Board on Indian Point ruled in favour of a lot severance against the wishes of residents who argued the large lots were part of the character of the community. The board ruled that if that was the case, the city could preserve the lot character with the zoning.

City staff testified at the OMB hearing describing “the character of the neighbourhood as having lots of open space, a variety of architectural styles, large lots and mature vegetation. The character of the neighbourhood is defined by the streetscape, lot widths and frontages.” Given that description of character, the Branthaven project clearly changes the character of Ghent in this section, in replacing single family homes on “large lots and mature vegetation” and “lots of open space” with townhomes on relatively much smaller lots.

The city staff reports on the Ghent development note: “the development proposal introduces greater scale, massing and coverage than currently exists.”

The scale of the project seeks the maximum density; the Official Plan allows a range of density that would meet the medium density targets.

Reports

The full list of reports filed by applicant with this application can be found here.

The city staff report and accompanying documents can be found here (scroll to item #17). The reports will be considered by city councillors at the Development & Infrastructure Committee Mon. March 25, 6:30pm, at City Hall. A final vote will be April 8 at City Council.

Information on registering as a delegation to speak to this report is here.

My Take: The project is too dense for the site, and will compromise greenspace and the character of the community.

Community character:

Aiming for the maximum density in the Official Plan via the specific built form of townhouses – in violation of the current zoning – creates a lot of asphalt and sacrifices greenspace and community character. Under the Provincial Places to Grow Growth Plan – cited to defend the project – municipalities are directed to “identify the appropriate type and scale of development in intensification areas.” This project is neither appropriate “type” nor “scale”. Further, the Regional Official Plan and the city’s own Official Plan, both cited to support this project, call for “intensification that is complimentary to existing developed areas” and maintains neighbourhood character “in terms of scale, massing, height, siting, setbacks, coverage, parking and amenity area.” That’s not achieved here.

Though there are townhouse developments on the street, they are much smaller in scale and can blend into the community.

This project could be reduced almost by half and still respect the Official Plan and Zoning and meet the city’s obligations to encourage intensification.

A smaller townhouse development (without the back to back units, for example), or a semi-detached development could be compatible and fit into the neighbourhood. This project’s scale and scope overwhelms the street and thus does not meet the OP requirements to achieve compatibility with intensification.

I met with the developer and requested Branthaven consider semi-detached homes, or even removal of the back-to-back towns. I had also asked the city to consider taking parkland instead of cash-in-lieu for parkland, to increase the amount of greenspace. But city staff did not want to add a park to its inventory when Optimist Park is around the corner.

Stormwater

I’m also concerned about the storm water management on the site and the fact that not all the data is in before council is being asked to approve this. It would be better to wait till the information is in before granting approvals.

Your Take: Do you support this development, or would you prefer something on a smaller scale? Have the concerns raised by residents been addressed? Let me know your thoughts below or email me at marianne.meedward@burlington.ca.

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

What's your take?