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The Weather Network
Feb. 21, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
Opinion: Site plan approval process flawed
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY TERRY DAVIS.
OPINION

If the garden project being built opposite the Pillar & Post is anything to go by, NOTL’s approach to urban planning is seriously flawed.

At the public meeting held in advance of the project being approved by Council, residents raised three major concerns: noise (from the outdoor entertainment tents) affecting the quality of life of neighbouring residents; increased on-street parking by hotel guests; and the removal of mature trees from the site. In response, Vintage Hotels indicated that the property would be surrounded by a nine-foot berm to help contain the noise, that nearly all trees (with the exception of scrub trees) would be preserved and that the construction of a below-ground multi-level parking lot would increase the number of parking spaces available at the hotel sufficiently to handle the expected increase in the number vehicles being parked at the hotel. Council approved the project shortly after this meeting, presumably in the anticipation that the proposed mitigation measures would be implemented.

It is true that participants at the public meeting were warned that it would be their last opportunity to comment on the site plan for the project and that it could be amended as the planning process was completed. However, I doubt that anyone who attended the meeting anticipated the extent to which the plan they were shown at the time would be revised.

Rather than preserving existing trees, Vintage Hotels has virtually clear-cut the site. Even healthy municipal trees have been cut down.

In addition, instead of a below-ground multi-level parking lot, it appears that the plan now incorporates a presumably smaller surface-level lot, and that the nine-foot berm has been eliminated from the plan entirely. In other words, it seems that most of the mitigation measures proposed by Vintage Hotels to gain Council and public support for the garden project will not be implemented. Nearby residents will be forced to live with the noise and parking issues that the garden project will generate when it is completed. It’s too late to save the trees – they’re already gone.

The planning process currently in use in NOTL has allowed the developer, town staff and Council to essentially ignore the concerns expressed by the public prior to Vintage Hotels’ garden project being approved. That’s wrong. In a democratic society, if the site plan for a project with as much potential to affect the wellbeing of town residents has undergone such significant revisions, surely the public should be given additional opportunities to comment on the plan prior to its implementation.

In this case, when the Vintage Hotels’ garden project has the potential to set a precedent for other outdoor entertainment areas, and all the issues they bring with them, to be created in proximity to residential neighbourhoods – think of the Two Sisters’ hotel development on the Randwood Estate site, the hotel development at The Village and the outdoor wedding venue being created at Vintage’s Queens’ Landing property – the need for further public consultation on the garden project is particularly clear.

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