Further to a significant development proposed for Huntsville’s northeastern urban area, the time it has taken the Town of Huntsville and District of Muskoka to render a decision regarding applications for the development of a 40.1 hectare (99.089 acres) property at 174 Earls Rd. has made its way to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), but staff says the application is not complete and there are outstanding issues.
According to the manager of planning for the Town, Richard Clark, the zoning application was first submitted on February 27, 2020, as part of a draft plan of subdivision proposal to create 287 single detached residential lots and nine multiple residential lots—each to contain a maximum of 72 units—for a total of 935 residential units. Three blocks are proposed for stormwater management and parkland recreation purposes. Access to the development would take place through an interior public road network connecting to Earls Road. As per the applicant, the number of units proposed would represent a density of 23.3 units per gross hectare while the Town’s Official Plan (OP) notes that the average density target for new development is 17 units per gross hectare.
The applicant has appealed to the LPAT noting that the municipality took more than the three months allotted to make a decision, but Clark told Huntsville’s planning committee at its January 13 meeting that the application was incomplete and it was not circulated for a public meeting regarding the plans “as Town staff was advised by the applicant’s agent that it may require revision to address anticipated changes resulting from updated environmental fieldwork and analysis expected to occur later in the year.”
He said the proposed draft plan of subdivision and the rezoning applications were subsequently revised in September 2020 to reflect findings contained in an addendum to the environmental impact study conducted on the lands. The revisions involved the addition of a conservation block to protect sensitive natural features along the eastern property boundary.
“As a consequence of this change, all other proposed zones were reduced in size, and the frontage for low-density lots were reduced to 12.2 metres,” said Clark, adding that the changes resulted in the loss of two residential lots, slight modifications to internal roads and reductions to the area of multiple residential blocks abutting the conservation block.
“Unfortunately, prior to submission of these revisions the applicant had initiated an appeal process on the draft plan of subdivision (which gets approved by the District of Muskoka) based on the fact that there had not yet been a decision from the District respecting the matter,” added Clark. He said the appeal was filed on April 14, 2020, and the applicant also appealed the zoning bylaw amendment application (which gets approved by the Town) as of December 23, 2020.
He said due to the changes to the Environmental Impact Study, many of the supporting studies were completed without the updated recommendations in the environmental assessment. “As a result, these materials would need to be reviewed and amended accordingly by their authors.”
He also said there’s an outstanding concern involving a 2.13-hectare wetland which was not recommended for protection in the revised environmental assessment, despite OP policies regarding such wetlands. He also said traffic and stormwater impact studies were not peer-reviewed due to the anticipation that they could change pending the outcomes of the updated environmental assessment report related to the mitigation of impacts of seepage areas contributing to headwater flows to tributaries of Gypsy Bill Creek.
Clark also noted that the proposed stormwater management pond itself is located partially within the conservation block identified to protect natural features.
He also said staff had requested a visual impact study, “and although one was submitted and contains a site plan with mature vegetation retention buffers and building orientations needed to mitigate visual impacts, none of these measures are reflected in either the subdivision block configuration or the proposed zoning.”
Clark also told committee that height and density transition policies in Huntsville’s OP were not addressed.
Given the magnitude of the proposed development, in October 2019 staff recommended that a secondary plan be undertaken for the northeastern urban area surrounding the lands in question to ensure the area would be developed in a comprehensive manner. An interim control bylaw was also discussed to stop development from occurring for a year until the study was completed, but Clark noted that no such bylaw was enacted.
See related story here: Committee turns down moratorium on new development in Huntsville’s northeast urban area
The file is still before the LPAT and staff are expected to report back to committee on the issue. You can find staff’s full report here.
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