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Vaughan residents applaud proposed policies regulating infill development

Some local developers see changes as too restrictive, especially for townhouses
Nov. 7, 2016
By Adam Martin-Robbins

A lot of longtime residents are happy about it, but affected landowners and real estate developers - not so much.

That’s what councillors heard Tuesday, Nov. 1 during a public hearing on proposed new Official Plan policies for townhouse and other forms of so-called infill developments in “established areas” of Vaughan, which typically feature single, detached homes on large lots.

“A great job has been done here, the sooner we get it (the policy changes) adopted the better,” said longtime Kleinburg resident Roger Dickinson.

He was one of a nearly a dozen people who spoke in support of the numerous proposed amendments to Vaughan’s Official Plan.

Among the proposed policy changes are:

The proposed amendments stem from a comprehensive study dubbed the Community Area Policy Review for Low-Rise Residential Designations.

The study proposes several other changes to the city’s Official Plan as well as new urban design guidelines, adopted by council in October and now in force.

Conducted by Urban Strategies, the study was commissioned following public outcry about a surge in what many have deemed “inappropriate” townhouse developments and, in some cases, clusters of semi-detached homes, in older areas of the city where some residents have lived for decades such as Kleinburg, Concord and the historic “downtown core “of Maple.

“I can well understand that many developers and some homeowners would prefer fewer restrictions. On the other hand, many homeowners, especially those who like the look and feel of the community that they bought into want to see some limits put on what can be built in their neighbourhoods,” said David Brand.

“The intent of the guidelines is not to prevent development of larger homes or buildings in existing residential areas, it is to manage it,” he added. “I submit to council that these guidelines and amendments to the Official Plan are a considerable step forward, not backwards, and I believe are supported by a majority of residents.”

A number of local developers have a very different take.

Leo Longo, a lawyer with Aird & Berlis who represents City Park Homes, called some of the proposed policy changes “bad planning.”

“To say that townhouses are allowed, but only if they front on a public street will prevent townhouses on deep lots that are on arterial roads,” he said. “These deep lots have nothing in common with the interior of the (surrounding) neighbourhood and ought to be allowed to develop in a townhouse format, on private roads. Your proposed Official Plan (policies) absolutely prohibits any development on private roads. That’s bad planning and ought not to find favour with this council.”

Ryan Guetter, from Weston Consulting, expressed similar concerns.

“It precludes private road configurations, which in fact is a direct impact to the ability to achieve intensification in a certain type of housing form that is home to many residents in Vaughan that this council has approved in numerous occasions in the years within the context of VOP 2010,” he said. “That’s a pretty significant concern for myself as a practitioner representing homebuilders and developers in Vaughan.”

A handful of other developer representatives also wrote letters expressing their opposition to the proposed policy changes.

The final version of the proposed Official Plan policy changes is expected to be presented to council in the spring of 2017.

Though councillors at Tuesday’s public hearing generally seemed to support the policy changes, Maple/Kleinburg Councillor Marilyn Iafrate issued a warning.

“I suspect between now and when this comes to committee of the whole, there’s going to be a lot of lobbying by the development community wanting to see major changes or to see this defeated,” she said. “I hope it’s not and I really hope that we all have the courage here to see this through to an amendment of the Official Plan.”

Even if councillors approve the policy changes, it’s not certain they will come into effect unchanged, or even at all, as anyone opposed to them can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board to have them struck down.