FOR THE GAZETTE
A draft plan for a subdivision in Northwest Picton was turned down by County Council last week.
The proposal for Talbot on the Trial, a mix of homes and town houses-both stacked and low level- was rejected in an 8-6 vote at Wednesday’s Planning Committee meeting.
Several councillors and some County residents shared concerns regarding density levels, affordability, accessibility and overall community benefit for the project which was proposed and advocated for by local developer Dave Cleave at a previous meeting earlier this year .
According to a Planning Report by Fotenn Planning + Design, the proposed Talbot development includes the phased development of 238 units, which is to contain a mixture of two-storey standard townhouses, three-to-four-storey stacked townhouses, two-to-two-and-a-half-storey back-to-back townhouses, and a two-storey single detached dwelling on Talbot Street along the Millennium Trail.
Local resident Bruce Laidlaw called the proposal “high-risk” and is contrary to many of the areas outlined in the County’s Official and Secondary Plans.
He noted that an extremely high-density rate of 51.7 units per net hectare is double the target of 25 and 40 per cent higher than the maximum target of 37 units per hectare, outlined in the County’s Secondary Plan.
“This is not acceptable for the vision of the County and respect for the current character of Picton,” Laidlaw said. “The proposed development will not only exceed density requirements but will also compromise the view, privacy, noise and tranquility of the surrounding residents as well as the rest of the town.”
Several councillors, including Coun. Jamie Forrester, also agreed, noting concerns that the density levels are not compatible with the County’s goal of achieving attainable and affordable housing options.
“I can’t find anything positive about this. There’s no affordable housing – at least nowhere close to what the average person in this County can afford at this time, or any young families. The density is way too high,” Forrester said. “It would be really nice to see one of these developers come forth who’s got multiple projects being built in the County that is going to be very large dollars being made, to come forth and say ‘At one point, I really want to be a partner in this community and build some affordable housing.’ That is not happening yet,” he added.
Forrester said at some point down the road, he’d like his children or his friends’ children to be able to afford to live here.
“This is a very difficult decision for council,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What do we want our community to be down the road?’”
Resident Wendy LeBlanc also spoke to council regarding “serious concerns” about the proposed subdivision.
Representing a group of over 50 County residents, LeBlanc said aside from not meeting the Secondary Plan requirements, the proposal also “fails to address the affordability issue here in Prince Edward County.”
“I’m asking you to consider what legacy you want this council to pass on to our community. If you approve this precedent-setting, high-density proposal, you will leave us with a development partially built on formally designated environmentally protected land that looks more like a big city than the rural small town charm of Prince Edward County,” she warned. “What’s more, we will be left with an unfilled need for affordable homes. In years to come, will you in all good conscience be able to point to the Talbot on the Trail development as it is currently planned and say ‘I voted in favour of this?’”
Coun. Bill McMahon echoed concerns surrounding density.
“If we allow this to go ahead, this is going to open the door to any developer to presume that we’re going to authorize this kind of density overage and it would be very difficult for us to say that we don’t do that anymore – that this was just a one-time thing,” he said.
In support of the project, Coun. Phil St. Jean agreed with some of the concerns raised, but argued the proposal supports future planning.
“We need more housing that is more attainable and more affordable compared to single family dwelling bungalows on large lots,” he explained.
St. Jean said density marks for those dwellings were based on the early 2000s or early 90s and proposals should move away from that.
“In the end, we need that higher density because density is the only way we are currently going to be able to address any form of affordability and attainability of housing in this community,” he said.
Coun. Kate MacNaughton and Coun. Janice Maynard both emphasized the important of the Community Benefits Agreement for the general public to understand.
County Planner, James Griffin said the agreement is a condition that must be completed prior to the subdivision agreement and will outline the roll out of benefits and values of the proposal.