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The Town of Huntsville’s planning committee has given Skyline’s rezoning application, in order to proceed with its Deerhurst Village Resort development concept, a green light.
The approval comes on the heels of a controversial public meeting, held at The Active Living Centre on August 12, in which area residents asked their elected representatives to put the brakes on the size of the proposed development. However an amendment to Huntsville’s Official Plan, approving in principle the Deerhurst Village Resort development concept, was passed by the previous council last fall.
4,500 square metres of retail space and 636 tourist commercial/resort residential units
The lands within the zoning amendment, comprising about 39 acres and referred to as the Village Centre, will permit 4,500 square metres of retail space and a total of 636 tourist commercial and resort residential units.
“And that complies entirely with the relevant section of the OP, which specifically states how many units will be permitted,” according to Huntsville planner and site plan coordinator Sean O’Callaghan.
He said concerns about lighting, the visual impact and character of the buildings will be addressed through site plan controls.
Development along the canal addressed
O’Callaghan noted that the area’s canal was discussed thoroughly at the public meetings. As a result, he said the developer has amended the development proposal for the West riverfront area to four buildings at a height of four storeys instead of the three, five-storey buildings originally proposed.
“Townhouse units were also moved away from the canal further north and the parking was placed further south to reduce the impacts of the buildings on the canal,” said O’Callaghan, adding that a 30-metre buffer zone along the canal has been zoned Conservation, prohibiting any site alteration in that area.
In terms of water quality and environmental impact, O’Callaghan said, “Water quality study and an environmental impact study were both completed by qualified professionals in addition to being peer reviewed and are supportive of the proposed development.”
He said additional studies addressing specific mitigation measures will be required as part of the site plan approval process.
Traffic shouldn’t be a problem?
In terms of traffic congestion, O’Callaghan told the committee members that a study had been conducted and submitted with the zoning application.
“This was completed by a qualified professional and it was determined in the study that future traffic volumes generated by the proposed development would not warrant major operational improvements to existing intersections. Now additional studies will be necessary as the development progresses, but again it will be addressed through the site plan stage of the development.”
He did say traffic studies will be required for the retail commercial and 150-unit hotel components of the development.
In terms of approvals sought by Skyline to subdivide the lands into blocks, the planning committee is recommending to the District Municipality of Muskoka (the approving agency) that all buildings contain fire protection as well as sprinkler systems. It is also recommending that tree buffers along the east/west length of the canal, from the west riverfront development area, be planted.
In the end, committee members approved staff’s recommendation that the rezoning proceed.
Councillor Karin Terziano said that while she does not believe there is a planning rationale to oppose the rezoning application, she did note that she was opposed to the OP amendment when it was passed by council in 2014.
“I don’t want to vote for it and have it interpreted as compliant because I was against it a year ago and I’m still against it as it pertains to the West riverfront portion, not the development per se and not development per se.”
Terziano asked the developer to consider the significance of “this historic and attractive piece of Huntsville.” She also suggested that if the developer were able to make further modifications related to concerns expressed by community members, it would serve to improve relations.
Skyline’s Paul Mondell, who was present to support the application before committee, nodded in response.
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison, who was planning chair when the OP amendment was passed during the last term of council, said he is pleased to see the end result. He said positive modifications were made to the planned development thanks to the collaboration between the Deerhurst Working Group – led by the Peninsula Lake Association, the Town’s planning department, councillors and the development proponent.
“I think it’s a great development not only for Huntsville but for Muskoka. This is a significant boost to our tourism economy and I think it’s a great thing and I’m eager to see it proceed” Aitchison
Development committee chair Nancy Alcock said she has taken the opposition by community members to heart, but noted once the OP amendment was passed, there was no turning back.
“If we were to refuse the application before us it would have to be based on very sound planning reasons… the Ontario Municipal Board has been really very clear on that,” she said. “I look at this area; it’s been designated for decades as an urban settlement area. We actually built the Golden Pheasant sewage treatment plant to service growth in this area… so what’s before us now is exactly what we’ve been hoping for.”
Committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the District as well as Huntsville council at its next meeting on September 28.