In recent discussions about a proposed six-storey hotel on the historic Randwood Estate, there has been considerable confusion about the status of an Official Plan amendment in 2011, and whether it was approved by council.
David Bell, a resident of Charlotte Street and a core member of SORE (Save Our Rand Estate), spoke to councillors at the committee of the whole meeting Monday about the bylaw amendment and how it should be addressed by the current council and the proposal before them. He was particularly interested in the role of the Municipal Heritage Committee as set out in the amendment, which said the MHC should have final approval over the site plan agreement, when its accepted role is to provide advice to council.
He was referring to a legal opinion by lawyer Callum Sheddon that was included in the minutes of the June municipal heritage committee meeting regarding site plan approvals, as outlined in the 2011 amendment addressing what was then a proposal for the Romance Inn.
In what is being referred to as the “Callum opinion,” Bell says despite the “crystal clear” language in the amendment, Shedden says the committee does not have that authority – in other words, staff and council of the day appear to have made a mistake.
Bell questioned the reasoning behind the decision of those on council in 2011 who agreed that the MHC should have a key role in the site plan approval of the Romance Inn proposal – while council might legally have the last say about site plans, he suggested it was an “understood and essential aspect” of the proposed 2011 development hat the MHC would be the “ultimate safeguard” of the heritage property.
Bell asked council to honour the spirit of that amendment by requiring the Two Sisters Resort developer have the MHC onside with his proposal for the estate before it comes to council for approval, “rather than hiding behind a legal opinion now.”
The 2011 Official Plan amendment also put the property in a “holding zone” that would not be lifted until site plan approval was given, Bell said.
Planning director Craig Larmour confirmed that since the site plan was never approved, the holding zone was never lifted, but said it's the only remaining condition of that zoning amendment.
Responding to a question from Coun. Paolo Miele, Larmour said all other issues such as the 57-foot height of the proposed hotel and the location of buildings, were approved in the 2011 bylaw.
Once the heritage designation of the properties now underway is completed, Larmour said, a heritage permit would be required before any development can go ahead, and that would require recommendations from the MHC to council.
But to clear up any continuing confusion on such an important issue, which will undoubtedly be back before council, Larmour was asked by Coun. Jamie King to provide a brief report on the status of the 2011 Official Plan amendment and the holding zone.
As a member of the 2011 council, King recalled “a significant amount of discussion and community angst” over the Romance Inn proposal “which led to unusual controls on the property and its development.” He voted against the Official Plan amendment that allowed it to move forward, he said, and although that discussion is “ancient history,” he said, it's very relevant right now.”
Miele expressed some frustration after the meeting that several issues regarding Randwood are being confused and are completely separate issues, including the site plan approval, which has nothing to do with the zoning application for an increased height to accommodate the six-storey hotel, the matter that is before council now.
Coun. Betty Disero made a motion Monday approved by councillors to give direction to Town staff to report as soon as possible on the information in Bell's presentation with respect to the holding aspect of the bylaw and its relationship to the rest of the bylaw, including “does it hold everything, and does it change anything.”
Disero also brought up the issue of a letter from Benny Marrotta of Two Sisters Resort to the Town regarding his intention to demolish some buildings on the two properties that are not part of the hotel proposal, one on John Street and one on Charlotte. Those two properties have been mentioned in documents as the site of a future subdivision, although there is no application for the subdivision before the Town yet. Disero was hoping for an explanation of the process the Town would follow in responding to the letter, although it wasn't discussed at Monday's meeting.
The Town has 60 days to respond, said Disero, who expects the answer will come to the August committee of the whole meeting, which is before the deadline.
In the meantime, the Town must decide on its intention to designate the two properties where he plans to demolish buildings. Once that intention to designate is announced, he will be unable to move forward with the demolition, said Disero.