Picton Harbour development moving ahead

(Gazette file photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

Picton is one step closer to having a harbour front subdivision. In a Special Planning Public Council Meeting last week, council approved an amended zoning by-law application and the draft plan of condominiums and subdivision to redevelop area located at 97 Bridge Street put forth by Port Picton Homes.

The special meeting follows a statutory public meeting held August 29th, 2019 along with public consultations with Quinte Conservation this past January and February.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Dave Cleave, was Jennifer Wood of FoTenn Planning + Design. Wood explained that pre-consultation discussions had been in effect since June 2018. And, she stated, the zoning by-law amendment, draft plan of subdivision and draft plan of condominium had been submitted since May 3.

Wood asserted there has been plenty of open dialogue between staff, peer review agencies and the public.

SAFE HARBOUR- Lands on the southern shore of Picton Harbour west of the municipal boat launch will be the site of a major development planned by Port Picton Homes. (Port Picton Homes photo)

“Based on feedback from members of the public, staff and various peer reviews, we made a number of changes,” stated Wood. “First, the parkland. There is quite a bit of discussion around parkland dedication. One of the main comments or concerns we heard was whether or not it’s appropriate to maintain the parkland blocks in private ownership, to be maintained by the condominium corporation.”

Wood stated the applicant has allowed for 1,818 square metres above the minimum requirement for such a development. All told, there would be three parks on site, with a total of 5,308 square metres considered to be parkland.

As it stands, the property in question is largely untamed, with stands of trees and the public mostly coming and going as they please.

“As a response to this, we are now proposing to convey these blocks as traditional land dedication to be conveyed to the municipality for ownership and maintenance moving forward. They would still be accessible by the condominium road with public easements over all of them, as well as a direct connection to the municipal boat launch site on Head Street,” Wood confirmed.

Wood notes that multiple parks were suggested by staff, as opposed to one contiguous parkland, in order to take advantage of the diverse topography, vegetation and views in the area. There would also be public access to the water.

“We continue to propose multiple park blocks that could aid in providing stops along the public pathway that traverses the water, as well as through the development itself,” said Wood.

Another amendment that Wood spoke to was related to floodplain setback.

“With the exception of one lot, we are no longer seeking a reduction in floodplain setback, which is required by law to be 15 metres. We were originally proposing six,” said Wood.

Based on feedback received from the EIS Peer Review, Wood explained they had received concerns that a floodplain setback was not a sufficient safeguard to protect ecological features on the site.

“The peer reviewer was concerned that, particularly the waterfront areas that are highly vegetated on that steep slope warrant additional protection, above and beyond the floodplain setback,” stated Wood.

Based on this, the ecologist for FoTenn along with the peer review ecologist worked to define what is now being called an environmental buffer area.

“The areas of shoreline that don’t have a buffer are, essentially, existing flat gravel disturbed areas or low-lying flat areas that have previously been clear cut. Through the zoning, we’re establishing this new environmental protection zone, or buffer, where there’s going to be very limited activities. It’s going to be a ‘no cut’ zone with the exception of limited trimming. No buildings or structures,” said Wood.

Along with the environmentally protected zone, there would be a buffer between that area and any development, save perhaps some decks or small sheds.

Based on all of the changes made to the original application, Wood stated there had been a reduction in total number of units, going from 303 down to 258.

Community bonuses were another issue broached by Wood and one which she expressed had been made “unclear”.

“We’ve calculated density and height bonuses, because the development exceeds the requirements for both,” said Wood. “The secondary plan says we can exceed those, if it’s appropriate, in exchange for community benefits. The secondary plan lays out what community benefits we can provide.”

Wood explains that community benefits can manifest in several ways: they can be cash (money provided by the developer for the municipality to use towards community benefits), they can be tangible benefits on site or they can be a combination of the two, which Wood states is what they are recommending.

“Essentially, we determine with a density bonus, the market adjusted value per unit, based on a land value which is based on an appraisal. We then figure out how many units over we are from what is permitted as a right, then we multiply that overage by the market adjusted value per unit. We come up with a value, apply a reasonable proportion and for the density bonus, that calculation comes out with a community benefit of $886,000.”

Some of the community benefits, as outlined in the secondary plan, could include an overage of parkland and the boardwalk.

Wood stated that the value of the overage of parkland and the boardwalk combined would be somewhere around $360,000.

Comments from the audience included those from Jane Leslie, who spoke at the Statutory Planning Public Meeting held late August.

“I think this document was signed off on Friday the 25th…the one from the planning department is 136 pages long,” decried Leslie

Leslie raised concerns about species at risk, specifically Northern Map Turtles.

“The environmental assessment said they couldn’t identify any species of turtles on the site, but in fact, in July we had a number of turtles appearing on the docks of the Claramont. This was confirmed by the Ontario Turtle Conservation Group in Peterborough. This is a species at risk according to the Federal Department of Environment and Climate Change in Ottawa,” said Leslie.

Leslie also expressed concern for the lack of approval from Quinte Conservation for a boardwalk, sight lines, and also the private sanitation system proposed by the developer.

Wood addressed Leslie’s concerns, noting they had sent ecologists to the site and found some eggs in the gravel area by the docking, but could not find any turtles.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton spoke to the developers responsiveness in light of issues raised. But, while she praised the environmental buffer zone as being “very good” she expressed some concerns including that trading off affordable and attainable housing at other Port Picton developments for the lack of such housing at the harbour development wasn’t good practice in her view.

“I would have preferred a slightly more unified streetscape on Bridge Street that doesn’t dwarf neighbouring buildings-I think it still does. But, the first few things I look for in any development is affordable housing, an active transportation plan and sustainability,” said MacNaughton. “Regarding housing, you’re suggesting it’s possible to trade off against another standalone development. I kind of don’t see that as a good strategy for us as a community.”

Councillor Janice Maynard echoed MacNaughton’s hesitation.

“While I respect the fact that there’s been further work and revisions done on this, I would have to say that in the nine years I have sat around here and looked at various site plan agreements, event draft site plan agreements, I’m somewhat concerned with the number of conditions still up for debate,” expressed Maynard. “We have a number of late breaking revisions that we did not have a chance to review, so that is an anomaly. I see the original letter from Quinte Conservation, but were they given a reasonable chance to respond to revisions, or were they given the same short notice?”

Councillor Janice Maynard put forth a motion to defer the application until more questions had been answered.

Mayor Steve Ferguson, among others, said he would not support a deferral.

“Apart from my view that staff and the proponent have done an exemplary job, and I echo Councillor John Hirsch, in clarifying all kinds of concerns brought forward by the public. In addition, they have done a terrific job addressing the questions of members of council. I can’t and won’t support a deferral motion,” stated Ferguson. “Yes, there may be some questions that need to be addressed. But, we have heard that those answers will be forthcoming anyway, so I would like to support this application and I support staff’s opinion. I would like to get this project underway.”

While the motion to defer was seconded by Councillor Kate MacNaughton, it was ultimately defeated 12-2. Construction is expected to begin next spring.