Carleton Place Planning and Development Committee Report
On Tuesday, April 3rd, Carleton Place Council held regular sessions of their Physical Environment (Public Works) and Planning and Development Committees in the upper auditorium at the town hall. The Physical Environment committee meeting was short with only 2 items appearing on the agenda; the renewal of Enbridge Gas’ lease of municipal facilities (which was approved without discussion) and a report on the central bridge project (which was deferred to the next committee meeting).
The bulk of the evening was spent on discussion of a development proposal from Volundur Wally Thorbjornsson for the site formerly occupied by DRS on the south shore of the Mississippi River. This brought an audience of over 50 residents out to speak regarding Thorbjornsson’s proposal for a 13 storey residence as phase 4 of his plans for the property. In December of 2017, council provided conceptual approval for phase 3; a new low-rise mixed use residential/commercial building. Before the discussion started, Thorbjornsson stood to ask that the matter be deferred to a future meeting because he wished to provide a substantially revised version. Council’s consensus was to continue in deference to the members of the public who had attended the meeting and wished to speak.
Ten neighbouring and community residents spoke at length against the notion of a 13 storey building with underground parking citing a number of serious concerns. They mentioned the negative effects of increased traffic on relatively narrow access streets, the uncomplimentary impact on surrounding buildings and properties, the lack of sunlight on adjacent lands due to building shadowing, the risk to older home foundations due to excavation and construction, the lack of privacy from higher elevation residences, and the risk to pedestrians with high traffic volumes among others.
One resident mentioned the apparent incongruity with council’s December 2017 decision to provide conceptual approval of phase 3 even though it failed to meet the town’s official plan’s restriction on commercial properties in this neighbourhood against staff’s recommendation to deny the phase 4 tower on the same basis. Even the applicant, Thorbjornsson pointed this out during his presentation. Town Planner Jane Almond noted that she had received a legal opinion on the matter that justified the process followed on Tuesday evening. She also confirmed that the mixed use proposal for phase 3 would require an official plan amendment and that no such application had been received to date. The town updated its official plan in 2013 with plans to review it again in 2023.
Several members of council expressed their concerns that they had not had any chance to review the legal opinion in detail and CAO Diane Smithson suggested they could do so at a future in-camera meeting citing Ontario’s Municipal Act that allows such a private discussion of items regarding lawyer/client confidentiality.
At the end of the discussion, councilors voted unanimously in a recorded vote to accept staff’s recommendation to deny the application. This decision will be up for ratification at the next full council meeting.
Thorbjornsson posted the following comment on his Face Book page on Wednesday morning following the denial decision “Last night Council voted down phase 4. of the South Shore Landing proposal and by doing so killed the entire project. I have requested information from the town this morning on several items that came up during last nights meeting as I highly question the legality of staff’s and Council actions last night.”