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Jun. 17, 2021 | Thursday
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Don’t rush new infill development bylaw, council told
Coun. Erwin Wiens sits as chair at the committee of the whole meeting on Monday, June 3. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Some Niagara-on-the-Lake residents feel a proposed amendment to the town’s official plan regarding infill housing policies is being rushed.

A number of residents spoke their minds about the amendment at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting on Monday night.

Council has previously directed community and development services to review the official plan and develop policies and requirements regarding infill and intensification in the residential neighbourhoods of NOTL.

In December 2018, council also passed an interim control bylaw prohibiting lot division within Old Town while the review of land use planning policies is underway.

Community and development services then recommended amendments to the town’s official plan. The proposed amendments include such development criteria as the width of the garages and driveways, building heights and massing, and tree retention.

Infill housing is often built on undeveloped vacant lots or on properties where an older home has been torn down.

Rick Wilson, the town’s manager of planning, made a presentation at the committee of the whole meeting Monday explaining the proposed changes.

The Region of Niagara has no objection to the proposed changes and has asked to exclude Glendale from the amendment as increased intensification, as part of the Glendale District Plan, is expected in that area.

At an open house on May 27, some residents also wondered if the amendment was dealing with all urban areas or only Old Town and whether new changes would make all development look the same.

On Monday night, Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy president Gracia Janes asked councillors if the amendment should deal with each community within the whole town separately rather than as a whole. She also wondered what vague words such as “consistent,” “generally” and “minimize” used in the amendment meant when dealing with lot areas, frontages, heights or privacy.

“Won’t the planned ‘consistency’ lead to a ‘cookie cutter’ design of developments like some of those that have been built lately?” Janes asked.

She pointed out the town has already met its minimum intensification target of 15 per cent set by the region.

Coun. Gary Burroughs noted that with Glendale project coming on, he “would imagine we have more than enough growth to cover any intensification that might be required.”

Old Town resident Paul Shepherd agreed with Jones, saying the existing interim control bylaw is in effect until December 2019 and there are a lot of “generalities” and “vague terminology” in the amendment.

Nancy Carriere, who lives on Raiana Drive in Virgil, said she wasn’t against development but she would like to see builders submit a final grading with their plan and make sure the development is aligned with the neighbouring homes in the area.

Some homes behind Carriere’s residence are higher than it is allowed, she said, and these homes are “massive.”

The province’s Bill 108, which aims to increase affordable housing supply and ease restrictions on development, would affect “a lot of what we do,” said Wilson.

The town has also sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford expressing its opposition to the proposed legislation. The bill would have “negative consequences on community building and proper planning,” town clerk Peter Todd said in the letter.

Council will make a decision regarding the proposed official plan amendments at a later date.