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St. Davids residents appeal Tawny Ridge decision to land tribunal
These lands in St. Davids are subject to a future tribunal hearing after residents appealed a planning decision of the town that would see a new subdivision built here. EVAN LOREE

A group of St. Davids residents has appealed a controversial town planning decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. 

The residents hope the tribunal will have a different opinion on a proposal that would drop 86 residential units onto a vacant lot in the mostly low-rise community.

The project has received enormous scrutiny from residents at every stage of approval, most recently after council reversed a decision to reject some parts of the proposal and approve others.

Several town officials emphasized the reversal was necessary to correct a procedural error made in the final stage of the project approval.

Resident Gienek Ksiazkiewicz is among the residents championing the project appeal. 

“Is it congruent with the rest of the community?” the resident asked.

Ksiazkiewicz thinks not — and is prepared to argue as much before the tribunal.

The appeal was filed late Tuesday, just shy of the Feb. 28 appeal deadline, by Toronto law firm WeirFoulds LLP which was retained by Ksiazkiewicz and his fellow residents.

Ksiazkiewicz has maintained from the start that the land between Warner and Tanbark roads should be kept for low-density residential uses.

The project proposal seeks to rezone the land to permit alternatives to detached single-family homes.

These would include stacked and three-storey block townhouses.

Ksiazkiewicz said he and his neighbours are not planning to become a formal advocacy group, like the Save Our Rand Estate (SORE) has over the Rand Estate project.

However, he said there were enough residents on board that it was impossible to have a distinct leader and the responsibilities of managing the appeal had to be divided up among those involved. 

In the absence of a formal residents association, Ksiazkiewicz said his name is on the appeal.

A tribunal appeal can cost thousands of dollars. He would not disclose how the group plans to fund the costs of the appeal.

Ksiazkiewicz has opposed the project from the start, objecting to its higher-density aspects.

And though the proposed subdivision is denser than some of the surrounding area, a planning report filed with the project application describes it as medium-density, not high-density.

The proposed RM1 zoning requested by the developer permits various types of townhouses, triplexes and fourplexes, according to the St. Davids’ comprehensive zoning bylaw.

These are all permitted forms of medium-density housing under the town’s official plan.

Generally, that plan limits medium-density to 12 housing units per acre, but parts of the Tawny Ridge project come in at about 13 units per acre.

A staff report in January said a streetscape analysis submitted with the application showed minimal impact on the adjacent neighbourhood and cited it as sufficient justification to exceed the cap.

“They should just leave the area as it was originally zoned,” he said.

Ksiazkiewicz said many people moved to the area when it was zoned for detached single-family units, and may not have bought there if they knew there were plans to build something “high-density.”

The town’s planning department recommended the project for approval and has described its density as “appropriate” for the area. 

Ksiazkiewicz said neither the developer nor town planning staff had been responsive to the concerns of the neighbourhood.

He said officials from Upper Canada Consultants had been invited to a meeting of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association but the invitation was declined.

“Nobody’s reached out to anybody as far as I am aware,” he said.

Communication concerns among the town, elected officials and the St. Davids residents were the subject of a longer feature by The Lake Report, Feb. 1.

“What we’d like to see is development that’s in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood,” said Dan Segal, president of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association.

The association preferred that the original zoning on the lot be retained, but “sometimes, compromises need to be made,” he said.

In this case, he said the compromise had gone “a little too far.”

The association has not been directly involved in the activism against the project, Segal said. 

“We’re supportive, in principle, of local residents trying to have their voices heard with any development that’s going forward.”

The issues raised by residents up to this point, including traffic, drainage and stormwater infrastructure, have been brought up by St. Davids residents for other development proposals. 

“And those are issues that could be problematic,” he said.

Segal said his association had not decided if it will financially support the tribunal appeal.

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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