The Ontario Municipal Board has given the green light for Branthaven’s proposed 58-unit townhome project on Ghent Ave. to proceed. The project replaces single family homes on eight assembled lots, and reduces greenspace from roughly 70% down to 30%. Local resident Dr. Emil Sekerinski, whose home backs onto the development site, had appealed the project as being out of character to the area, in terms of overall density, building sizes and setbacks. A city planner, and a planner hired by Branthaven, both gave separate expert evidence in favour of the project. City council approved the project by a 6-1 vote in April 2013.
“In matters of this type when there is no expert evidence to support the position of one who appeals City Council’s decision to approve a development, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to ignore the expert testimony given in support of the proposal,” stated the adjudicator Steven Stefanko.
In his Dec. 19 decision, Mr. Stefanko concluded the project is “an appropriate infill in a medium density designation.” Among his reasons: the project facilitates intensification as required under provincial policy documents and makes efficient use of land, infrastructure and public services; the project “compliments…the other nearby townhouses on the street” and “semis, duplexes and triplexes which exist.”
Although the proposal introduces “greater massing and coverage than what currently exists” compatibility in the Official Plan is defined as co-existing in harmony with existing development, wrote Mr. Stefanko. He was also satisfied with the proposed vegetation plan which called for fencing and vegetation along the border of the property, including planting 60 new trees. (Approximately 100 trees on the property plus four city trees will be removed under the vegetation plan, for a net loss of more than 40 trees, many of them mature).
Mr. Stefanko also approved the site plan conditions, which had separately been appealed to the board. . I brought a motion to council on behalf of residents asking for some conditions to be added to the site plan approvals regarding groundwater monitoring and tree protection. Those conditions, supported by council and ultimately by the OMB, include: hoarding around trees to protect them during construction (and replacing any retained trees that die within 3 years of construction); implementing a tree removal schedule that preserves trees until their removal is necessary for construction and minimizing periods when the area is cleared of tree coverage; hiring a certified arborist to ensure tree preservation; quarterly monitoring of groundwater impacts for two years, with an option to extend monitoring for up to five years.To read the OMB decision on the zoning click here: Branthaven Origins Ghent Avenue – ZONING Dec 19 2013
To read the full list of site plan conditions, including steps required to reduce construction impacts, click here: Branthaven Origins Ghent Avenue – SITE PLAN December 19 2013
. It is very difficult for residents on their own to achieve victory at the OMB, without calling expert witnesses at considerable personal expense, a fact noted in the OMB decision itself. In addition, the decision reinforces that each development becomes a benchmark for approving new, similar developments. In his approval of Branthaven’s townhouse project, the adjudicator noted other townhouse projects on the street.
I did not vote for the Branthaven project, because it ate up too much greenspace and trees, and did not conform to existing zoning, but I did advocate for a modified project of semi-detached with some standard townhouses that would still have met intensification requirements.
The OMB support of the extra site plan conditions is welcome, as those will provide some measure of protection to greenspace and local ground water for the community.