There were no real winners in a recommendation put forward by Huntsville planning staff regarding development on Treasure Island.
The island is located on Lake Waseosa and is divided into two parcels—one is approximately 9.5ha (about 23.5 acres) in size with about 100 metres of lake frontage, and the other is approximately 1.1 ha (2.7 acres) in area with about 300m of lake frontage. Both are zoned Conservation.
The larger lot has been in the applicants’ family for more than 70 years since it was originally purchased by their grandfather. In a 2017 tax sale, the applicants managed to secure the entire island by purchasing the smaller lot and now they’re looking for development rights on each lot in order to develop two single residential dwellings on each. They maintain that they did not know of the Conservation zoning and also want the zoning lifted off the island and changed to a shoreline residential five zoning [SR5], noting that development restrictions can be imposed through site plan control.
Area residents, including the lake association, have been opposing any development on the island citing, among other issues, the fact that it is zoned Conservation. Concerns have also been expressed that the applicants may want to create more lots in the future.
Following several meetings and changes to the proposal, on November 13, 2019, staff returned with a recommendation to the Town’s Development Services Committee: allow a primary residential dwelling on each lot by rezoning parts of the island and restrict development by spelling out where and how it can take place, but keep the Conservation zoning on the remainder of the lands. Access to the island lots will take place from a mainland property at 600 North Waseosa Lake Road, which will provide a waterfront landing as well as parking.
Russell Cheeseman, the solicitor for the applicants, said that while his clients were happy with the recommendation from staff to allow for the potential of residential development on the island, they’d still like the Conservation zoning changed.
“What I’m told is that there aren’t any records as to how or what the justification was for the Conservation zoning,” he told the committee.
Senior planner Elizabeth Reimer told the committee that since the zoning was placed on the island property, lake monitoring has greatly changed and Lake Waseosa is no longer considered a lake that by those same standards has issues. “Obviously there are differing opinions on this, absolutely, but the provision of two dwellings on the island through the conservation of vegetation and that riparian zone that that vegetation protects, the development of two houses and a dock and potentially a boathouse on each of these parcels, I’m not an expert in environmental management, however it’s not a proposal above and beyond something that is normally expected on a waterfront property,” she said.
In terms of the schedules in the bylaw detailing how development on the island can take place, Cheeseman said he thought that in some ways staff had gone ‘a little too far’. “You know what put the standards in the bylaw, setbacks from the lake… buffers where they have to be… and leave it to the site plan control we have to go through.”
He suggested that the entire island should be zoned Shoreline Residential Five. “Put it all in one zone and then put all the development standards that everyone agrees to… and tie it down. Make it as detailed as possible,” he argued.
When questioned by committee members, Reimer indicated that while development can be controlled through the site plan process it’s the bylaw that gives teeth to development restrictions.
“If the goal is to have two building envelopes on these two lands, it seems counterintuitive to me that you would not want Conservation lands to potentially mitigate the high taxes on the remainder of the island,” Councillor Jonathan Wiebe told Cheeseman.
“The underlying concept there is that somehow the Conservation zone on this property devalues the property, and it does. It does today and it does tomorrow because Conservation restricts the uses of the land,” said Cheeseman. “Make it a zone and then restrict the zone like you do in any cottage property,” he argued, adding that the municipality has no substantial evidence that there is anything to conserve on the island.
Doug Janes, a resident on West Waseosa Lake Road, said he was representing a group of area residents, and said while he is pleased with the development conditions put in place, he asked committee members to turn down the recommendation before them.
“The fundamental question here is the long-term health of the lake,” he said, adding that the Conservation zoning placed on the island should be upheld by committee members, and those he represents do not agree with any zoning change in order to allow development on the island. He argued that every zoning placed on properties as part of the municipality’s 2006 comprehensive zoning bylaw is up for grabs, otherwise, “as is the decisions that you make today. If a subsequent council can overturn paper decisions, then a subsequent council can overturn the decisions that you’re making today on that zoning, and that will open up this island to further development,” he noted, also questioning who would enforce restrictions imposed on the island development.
Acting Mayor Karin Terziano said the Conservation zoning was placed on the island in 2006 because the lake was over the threshold.
I understand the lake isn’t over threshold any longer, however, I don’t want to see it go over threshold so anything we can do to prevent that, I’m in favour of.Acting Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano
“Whatever we do today, we can’t control what a future council will do… nor can I control what the applicants are going to do tomorrow, they might sell their property to somebody but I’m going to do the best that I can do today and it seems by going through everything we’ve been through the best we can do today is to allow their building sites, one on each piece, and keep the rest of the land in Conservation. I’d like to keep it all in Conservation, give them the exception just to build, but our staff is recommending that the… [SR5 zone] is fine for the building sites, so I’ll support this but I won’t support changing the rest of the island into anything but what it’s in now,” said Terziano.
Wiebe echoed similar sentiments. “We all know what we’ve gone through to get to this point but it seemed to me that the ratepayers association of Lake Waseosa were reluctant to support any development on this island, however they seemed to indicate in the one letter… that if it were to go through, the only way to do it in a responsible way would be, I think, what staff have come up with. So is it always going to be a perfect result where everyone is happy? Very rarely, but it seems to me that this has met their threshold for acceptance,” he said, adding that he would support the recommendation by staff as well.
In the end staff’s recommendation passed with a vote of three to two with councillors Jason FitzGerald and Dan Armour voting against staff’s recommendation to allow the development of a shoreline dwelling on each island lot while the remainder of the lands remains in a Conservation Zone. The committee’s decision is expected to be forwarded to Huntsville Council’s November 25, 2019 meeting for final approval.
There were some minor changes to the draft development bylaw not yet updated in the staff’s report, which you can find here.
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