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Richmond Hill council blasted for pushing through disputed infill projects

Oak Ridges resident says council 'using' coronavirus pandemic
April 28, 2020
Shelia Wang

When Anna Margitta found out what is coming to her quiet neighbourhood in Oak Ridges, it was already too late.

The longtime resident said Richmond Hill council approved an intensification plan on her street - which she and her neighbours have been openly opposed to for more than a year - without getting clued in.

“They used this current terrible situation to push through personal pet project items without any regard to residents,” Margitta wrote to The Liberal on April 14.

It was on April 8 when she found a city’s notice in her mailbox about the proposal to be discussed at council, the same day the electronic council meeting took place, Margitta said.

She missed it, so did her neighbours, who didn’t even get a letter, the resident said.

Margitta said she went over and over again the recorded meeting posted on YouTube in a futile attempt to see how council addressed the concerns that have been raised previously.

It was later that she realized the residential development proposal of 12 semi-detached homes and 30 townhouses between Aubrey Avenue and Maple Grove Avenue was adopted – with no discussion.

“We’re livid!” Margitta said. “They’d have to wilfully neglect our objections.”

The project was one of five development applications that have been approved by council since the first electronic meeting on April 8.

While the emergency orders have impacted city services and a number of projects in Richmond Hill, the city has continued to accept and process building permits, development applications and related site plan and subdivision agreements, The Liberal reported.

“Was it urgent? Was it essential?” Margitta asked, questioning the timing of the passage of the proposal and lack of communication from her ward councillor.

Oak Ridges Coun. Greg Beros wrote to The Liberal on April 23 that “the city clerk’s office has confirmed that the public was duly notified by mail.”

Margitta said the city did not give resident sufficient time to be informed since they were told to stay home except for essential business.

The letter from the city was dated April 1, but she didn’t see it until seven days later, she said.

Richmond Hill has not changed its way of notifying the public of upcoming council meetings during the pandemic, except for promotions on social media platforms, according to an email from the city.

“What else could have we done to express our objections?” Margitta asked.

The resident who has lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years said she and the neighbours have tried everything to voice the concerns about the 42-dwelling-unit projects to be built on a 1.07-hectare land where currently four properties stand.

Traffic, lack of public parking and the unsolved sewer backup problem in the area were among the issues the residents have raised, Margitta said.

In a letter to the city last May, another resident, Lisa Zhang, pointed out that the proposal was against the character of the neighbourhood.

There are currently only single-detached homes with wide lots in the neighbourhood where the infill development has been planned.

Residents have attended a public meeting, made a presentation at council, sent letters to councillors and emailed city staff in an effort to push back the intensification, Margitta said.

But they haven’t heard a word from the city since last May, Margitta said, until a letter came to her almost a year later when it has become a done deal.

Coun. Beros said the residents’ comments were addressed in a staff report that was presented to council on April 8.

“What a load of garbage,” Margitta said of the report, which she was not aware of until weeks later.

The councillor noted that the proposed residential buildings were in line with the city’s official plan and consistent with a residential infill study done in 1999.

“I think that if you create a narrative and then find a situation which agrees to your narrative, it does not prove your narrative was correct. Everyone has done a swell job of patting themselves on the back,” Margitta said.