Committee trumps staff’s recommendation to improve private road as part of planning approval

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Should all planning approvals on private roads be contingent on the applicants bringing such roads up to municipal standards?

Not according to Huntsville’s Planning Committee members. Committee ruled against staff’s recommendation to require the owner of a Seelys Road property to bring a portion of the road up to municipal standards in order to approve a zoning amendment allowing for a large-vehicle home repair shop.

Seelys Road is a private road located on a municipal unopened road allowance and the property in question is located about 180 metres from the intersection with North Mary Lake Road, committee heard at its June 13 meeting.

“The operations department is concerned that the road is currently unable to adequately support the weight and size of the additional vehicular traffic that would be generated by the proposed use and accordingly they are recommending that this portion of Seelys Road be brought to a suburban road standard,” said Elizabeth Reimer, Senior Planner for the Town of Huntville.

In order to address the concern, Reimer recommended that a holding provision be put in place as part of the zoning amendment approval, which would be lifted once the road is brought up to municipal standards at least 50 feet from the edge of the property’s driveway.

But Jill Perry, the applicant, was before committee asking that the holding provision be removed as a condition of approval. She said the zoning amendment would simply enable her son to work on the family’s company truck, as set out by Ontario Ministry of Transportation regulation.

She told committee that her family has been parking a school bus and transport truck on the property for more than 25 years. “As I said before, there will not be any additional big, heavy vehicular traffic from us because of the zoning amendment,” said Perry. “The only extra heavy traffic on this road is from properties further down Seelys Road that have been issued building permits.”

Perry told committee that the road has supported heavy construction equipment for about a year now, along with the usual traffic, and said the road is still in good shape. “Just for a comparison, a dump truck weighs approximately 13,000 kilograms empty and 36,000 kilograms full. In contrast, our transport [truck]weighs less than 8,500 kilograms and a full-size bus weighs under 9,000 kilograms and again we’ve had them in and out of there for 25 years. The loaded dump trucks, they’re more than four times the weight of our transport or the bus.”

Brandon Hall, Civil Engineering Technologist with the Town, told committee that since the municipality does not maintain that road, it is difficult to assess what’s there in terms of soil conditions, engineering standards or grade. “To say that that road is sound to support vehicles, I can’t unless we have an engineer’s report to support that,” he said, adding that the back end of the road was professionally engineered to municipal standards.

“For this section of road, we don’t know what’s there… public works is really looking for an engineer to tell us that it can meet that standard, it can support that heavy truck traffic. Public works does receive complaints on that road for condition and vehicles parked—so we do receive those complaints,” said Hall, adding that asking applicants to address road standards on Town-owned road allowances is common practice.

Councillor Jason FitzGerald said common sense would dictate that the vehicles are already travelling the road. He said he suspect the complaints received by the municipality involve the usual spring dust and pot holes and said he’s not sure that it makes sense that the engineered part of the road is at the end of the road.

“I’m troubled by our lack of conformity in how we’re dealing with these applications,” said FitzGerald.

Others, like councillors Jonathan Wiebe and Nancy Alcock, noted that it is obviously in the business owners’ best interest to ensure the road can sustain the traffic associated with their business.

“If you are damaging your own road and you have to pay for the repair of your own road, that’s going to be among the residents to work that out,” said Wiebe.

Committee also heard that the applicants and several other property owners along that road maintain the road by pitching in labour, machinery and materials. Four area property owners also wrote in support of the zoning amendment application, stating they had no objections.

“So we have properties all over this private road and there’s never been a request to make it a municipal road before?” questioned Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano. “I think my point is a picture is worth a thousand words and this looks like a good road to me.”

“I know, it does look like a good road to me as well,” concurred Alcock.

In the end, Councillor Bob Stone recommended a new motion be forwarded to council, one without a holding provision asking for the road to be brought up to municipal standards. That motion was approved by committee.

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2 Comments

  1. Common sense prevails: one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely the correct ones; especially in diverse Muskoka. Kudos to Planning Committee.

  2. It’s time to make developers develop on services such as sewers and water and road standards at the developers cost in Town .

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