Monday, March 12, 2007

Those Crazy Bramptonites

Residents against highrises pack meeting
Friday March 9 2007

Hundreds of residents packed Loafer's Lake Recreation Centre and many more were turned away at the door for a meeting of a citizen's group that had the discussion of a controversial development on the agenda.

The Northwest Brampton Community Development Association meeting was standing room only as residents came to hear an update on a developer's plan to build six highrise condominiums at the corner of Sandalwood Parkway and Conestoga Drive. Many were turned away at the door because there was no room inside. Area Regional Councillor Paul Palleschi promised a larger venue for the next public meeting, suggesting the Rose Theatre might be needed to accommodate the crowd.

RoyalCliff Homes and Lake Path Holdings Inc. have filed a formal application to the city proposing construction of three 18-storey buildings, two 25-storey buildings and one 32-storey building, as well as six townhouse blocks for a total of 1,400 units on the site. The 4.02-hectare (9.9 acre) site is adjacent to Loafer's Lake park and recreation centre, and is surrounded by an established area of single-family homes.

Palleschi said the city's planning commissioner has never seen a plan like it in his 30 years of planning.

An attempt to find an alternate site for the development along the Queen Street Corridor failed.

City staff must examine the plan's merits from a strictly technical perspective. A refusal at the local level could see that decision appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board for a final ruling.

City staff have six months to study the plan. They have already asked the developer for several specialized studies, including environmental, traffic and shadow studies.

The results of those studies will be put through a peer review by the city, the residents were told.

The plan will be circulated to the school boards, the conservation authority, the fire department and other local agencies for comment on its impact on area infrastructure.

As part of the process, a formal public meeting will also be held. Palleschi told residents they must make the time to come to any and all meetings, to ensure their opinions are known and counted.

Residents are opposed to the plan because of the increase in traffic they say area roads could not handle.

They also believe the highrises-- the highest planned highrise in the city right now is less than 30 storeys-- would be out of character with the rest of the area.

The Heart Lake site was re-zoned 18 years ago for two 18-storey buildings with a total of 419 units, but the developer at the time couldn't market the condominiums and the plan was abandoned. The land was sold, but never developed. Despite the existing zoning, however, any plan to build highrises would have to come under more scrutiny, including the need for new traffic studies, since the old studies would be almost two decades out of date, according to the city.

At Wednesday's meeting, Palleschi was talking compromise, saying he is somewhat optimistic an alternative can be found and agreed to by the developer, the city and residents.

To that end, he asked for representatives from each street in the area to volunteer for a committee to discuss various options that city staff can put together and present to the developer.

"I'm still asking you to fight this, but we have to have a plan," Palleschi told the group.

He said city staff have already come up with some alternate options, and he handed out one such option at the meeting suggesting one highrise along with townhouses, and some bungalows. Regardless of the final development, five per cent of the land will have to be donated to the city in lieu of parkland, he told residents.

The crowd grumbled when told Mayor Susan Fennell and area MPP Linda Jeffrey were not at the meeting. Fennell and Jeffrey were at the Business Person of the Year Award banquet.

Palleschi assured the group Fennell is 100 per cent opposed to the plan, and so is he. He said City Councillor John Hutton, who was also absent and is recovering from cancer treatments, is also opposed to it.

Jeffrey sent a letter, which was read aloud, stating the issue is not a provincial one and that the local councillors must work with the developer to come up with a compromise. She, too, said she is opposed to the plan.

Local MP Ruby Dhalla attended the meeting and told the group, although the issue has nothing to do with her government, she supports the residents and offered her office and her help.
Brampton residents are a funny group. They move to an area with no municipal services, then complain about the lack of municipal services. They complain about traffic congestion, but protest construction projects to increase the capacity of the roads. They demand better transit service, but send letters to the editor when fares rise to pay for the service (which, in Brampton, have been traditionally below the GTA average). They complain about how much sprawl has consumed their hometown, but when a project comes along that seeks to alleviate urban sprawl, they compare it to dropping a nuclear bomb on the community (not my words, theirs).

If a site has been zoned for something, chances are it will get built, be it now or 18 years in the future. Simply because one company passes on developing the project doesn't mean another company won't either.

I recognize that you cannot build without the infrastructure to support the development, but the concept of the development is good. It falls in line with the direction development in the GTA should be going. Dare I say it, Jane Jacobs would be proud.

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At 3/12/2007 4:17 p.m. , Blogger Adeel Ahmad said...

You raised a lot of issues and I don't agree with everything you said, but I have to admit that I'm a little confused by the opposition to the plan.

The only problem is aesthetic: the buildings are too tall. Other than that, the intensification is a good thing.


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