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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Letter: High-density Tawny Ridge project is wrong for St. Davids
Gienek Ksiazkiewicz, seen here at a town hall meeting, makes his case that a residential proposal for townhouses is unfit for St. Davids. EVAN LOREE

Dear editor:

The zoning amendments for phase 2 of the Tawny Ridge development that intended to densify St. Davids with stacked townhouses, etc. were rejected on Jan. 30 in a 4-3 vote of town council, (“Council OKs 12 homes at Tawny Ridge, rejects townhouses”).

Couns. Wendy Cheropita, Maria Mavridis and Nick Ruller voted in favour of densification of St. Davids, but their decisions were to say the least bewildering. Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa and Coun. Erwin Wiens were not present for the vote. No reason was given.

The urban design committee rejected the zoning amendments for Tawny Ridge. Cheropita leads that committee but apparently doesn’t agree with its recommendations, instead relying on town staff’s contrary rendition.

The developer now has a couple of choices – develop the property zoned as low-density for residential homes similar to the neighbourhood or make a case at the Ontario Land Tribunal to overturn council’s decision.

The land tribunal alternative is probably where they will turn to next. The motive: increased density, increased profits. Other factors don’t seem to enter the picture to change that.

I believe that when these three councillors voted in favour of the development their decisions were, aside from assurances from town staff that everything presented by the consultant was copacetic, partly based on the belief the developer would go to the land tribunal which, they believe, would approve the development.

Presentations regarding the deficiencies of the town’s drainage and sewage infrastructure, the deficiencies identified in the traffic study, parking, the requests to amend the development to a more compatible one consistent with the neighbourhood weren’t adequately persuasive for them to warrant a vote to reject the zoning amendments.

It was a foregone conclusion that the tribunal would approve what the consultant had asked for, and notably what town staff recommended. Why bother advocating compliance with the town’s official plan?

There also may have been the concern that spending money to hire an outside planner and perhaps legal counsel to argue the case before the land tribunal was an inappropriate and wasteful use of the town’s financial resources.

But councillors cannot acquiesce to every zoning amendment just because it will cost money and live or make decisions under the fear that the land tribunal will veto their decision. The town has to take a stand somewhere, sometime.

Town staff have relied on the studies by the consultant, a paid advocate of the developer.  Some of these studies undoubtedly have disclaimers associated with them, or have relied on old historical statistical data that doesn’t correspond with real world events. All standard fare – don’t bother worrying about that.

However, if this development were to be approved and problems regarding drainage, sewage, traffic, etc. subsequently develop, town staff can always point to the consultant’s studies as culprits.

Town staff can argue they relied on “professional” external bodies and reports and could say those external bodies were deficient in their representations.

As a result, town staff escapes culpability.

Councillors can point to town staff to say they relied on them for advice and counsel, also absolving themselves of culpability. Everybody keeps their jobs. Everyone wins.

Except the residents, who wind up suffering the consequences.

It is glaringly evident that the existing water drainage infrastructure of St. Davids, (and apparently sewage capacity, among other things) cannot support a high-density development.

Pictures of water drainage in January of this year, vividly showed the Sandalwood reservoir at maximum capacity, even with the 9.2 acres of Tawny Ridge land absorbing a considerable amount of runoff.

I don’t know if councillors are aware that all water drainage west of Tanbark and south of York Road apparently flows to the Sandalwood reservoir, not to the Fireman’s Reservoir.

There is no apparent drainage from the Tawny Ridge development or homes west of Tanbark all the way to the top of the hill on Tanbark to the Fireman’s Reservoir. Everything flows to the Sandalwood reservoir. This is an infrastructure problem.

Hydrological analysis would undoubtedly show that the rapidity of water flow and short-term volume accumulation with the concrete and asphalt densification of 9.2 acres would result in the reservoir overflowing onto the vineyard and houses below, damaging crops and homes. Expansion of this reservoir isn’t a readily available option.

In addition, the existing berm that keeps the water from bursting its banks is apparently bulging and in recent memory has already burst at least once.

Zoning amendments resulting in a breach of the reservoir could present significant financial liabilities to the town. On this basis alone these three councillors should have voted against the requested zoning amendments.

The consultant’s arguments regarding densification seem to be a non-issue and not a justification for their zoning amendment requests.

Both Couns. Gary Burroughs and Sandra O’Connor have stated that NOTL does not have a problem meeting housing start targets. So why a high-density development?

Gienek Ksiazkiewicz
St. Davids

 

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