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Furious Vaughan residents urge council to hit pause button on massive golf course redevelopment

Implementing interim control bylaw would give the city one year to thoroughly assess Clubhouse’s bid to build more than 12,000 units on golf course
March 9, 2020
Dina Al-Shibeeb

The colour of their T-shirts were black, giving the mostly green logo the perfect contrast to pop out.

The logo shows two proud trees and their group’s name and purpose spelled out as -- Keep Vaughan Green -- with the last key word being overtly emphasized with bigger and bolder font.

The T-shirts were worn by Keep Vaughan Green’s main members and many others donned the group’s green badge as they sat for a public hearing Tuesday, March 3 at the City of Vaughan to oppose a massive, in-fill housing development on a former golf course by Clubhouse Developments Inc.

The turnout was so high, people had to be seated in other rooms at the City other than the Council Chamber where public hearings take place. Some others were standing in the hallways too.

KVG, which currently has about 500 members, was formed in 2017 in reaction to Clubhouse’s bid to build 600 homes after acquiring the 290-acre Country Club Golf Course in the rolling hills of the Humber Valley in the same year.

While Clubhouse backtracked from its proposal, its planning consultant Billy Tung submitted Tuesday a much more ambitious high-density reach up to 1,215 homes, more than double its previous proposal.

Tung gave the Council and the mostly-furious attendees a presentation of why there is a need for an Official Plan amendment as the golf area is currently zoned as green space. So far, the Clubhouse project wants to bring about 475 single detached, 64 street townhouses, 60 laneway townhouses and two low-rise mixed-use blocks of about approximately 616 units.

In his slides, Tung also showed how there is going to be some green space as well as a park to keep the green theme intact for the future residents.

But soon after Tung’s presentation, deputants poured out their objection, citing a myriad of reasons including how this project would be a “blemish” threatening biodiversity, exacerbating an already-congested traffic, devaluing their home prices, and polluting their surroundings as noise would emanate from years of construction.

The deputants also echoed what KVG has proposed: an Interim Control Bylaw.

Paola Crocetti, head of canvassers and volunteers at KVG, said Clubhouse’s proposal is a heavyweight.

It could be the “biggest infill in all of York Region,” Crocetti, simply due to the “dimensions” of the project.

“We don’t have transit buses around here,” said Crocetti, who used to leave to work really early to avoid her 10-minutes driving from mushrooming to 45 minutes or an hour in peak hours even all within Vaughan.

She sounded the alarm that this project could possibly bring 3,000 more vehicles to already-congested roads. In addition, there are already other developments happening in adjacent places.

Independent studies

Crocetti said KVG is proposing for the City to adopt this bylaw to help it “conduct independent unbiased studies in order to make an informed decision relative to the Clubhouse application.”

Crocetti also explained how studies submitted by developers are “generally biased” as it “favours” their proposals.

The bylaw would “freeze” any development for about a year until the City completes its own evaluation.

“In case the studies are not completed within the one-year timeframe of the ICBL, there is an option to renew it for another year,” she added.

“Asking our councillors to implement this interim bylaw is to buy them time for the City to complete its own independent study,” she further explained. “Once the studies are completed, then the city can make an informed decision.”

Not the first time

Residents asking for an ICBL on Clubhouse’s application isn’t new.  They asked for ICBL when Clubhouse submitted its 600 units proposals but withdrew it in 2018.

At the time, Vaughan’s Deputy city manager of planning and growth management Jason Schmidt-Shkourki told Council that said residents’ “anxiety” is understandable and many of the points they make are “valid.”

But, “We think that an Interim Control Bylaw is not justifiable at this point,” he added since the City was undergoing its review on its Official Plan and zoning.

He instead suggested the study for the Clubhouse can be incorporated as the City undergoes its reviews.

Also, despite Clubhouse’s initial application withdrawal, the residents still wanted to continue with comprehensive study being done through an ICBL.

Richard Lorello, an active Vaughan citizen who also plays an advisory role to KVG, argued that ICBLs can be done with or without an application from a developer. “The use of ICBLs have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada,” he told the Vaughan Citizen.

Lorello was also among the many deputants Tuesday; he also urged the City to adopt ICBL to have an “in-depth, objective study that’s our request tonight,” describing the “rarely used” ICBLs as not “draconian.”

He also argued that ICBL would freeze an entire year to conduct a thorough study, diminishing the time constraint the City would face without it using its present regulatory tools.

Asked if this ICBL would derail development of much needed new buildings amid the lack of affordable housing crisis, Crocetti said, “According to the Official plan numbers Vaughan is ahead of plan.”

Lorello gave an even more sombre response when he said, “The homes proposed by the applicant do not fit the definition of affordable housing,” showing the complexity of bringing affordable housing to the fore in the GTA.