Saturday, October 16, 2010

City Loses Heart Lake Appeal - Brampton Guardian

The proposed development at the corner of Sandalwood and Conestoga in the Heart Lake neighbourhood of Brampton is something that I've blogged about for a very, very long time.  I won't rehash my reasons for supporting the development, but I will provide a recap of the story thus far:

 The initial proposal was to build six apartment towers of 18, 25 and 32 storeys, six blocks of three storey townhomes and a 17,200 square foot "amenity facility." This was not supported by the City of Brampton. The developer proposed an alternative which consisted of commercial and residential building heights ranging from 3 to 20 storeys, with a single building of 26 storeys, and appealed the initial rejection to the Ontario Municipal Board in hopes of getting their new proposal approved.

At the board hearing, both sides agreed to the following:
  • That high density development in an apartment form compatible with the host community is acceptable for this site;
  • That office development compatible with the host community is acceptable on this site;
  • That live work units are acceptable from a land use perspective on this site; however, there is no agreement on how these units should be calculated with respect to density;
  • That two (2) 18 storey buildings and commercial lands uses are currently permitted on the site in the existing zoning by-law.
  • The linear distance/spatial separation between the point towers, as shown on the proposed plan meets minimum acceptable standards from an urban design perspective;
  • The subject site is part of the Heart Lake Town Centre and as such higher/high density forms of development as well as a variety of uses as envisaged by the Secondary Plan that are compatible with the surrounding context is permitted; and
  • “Towers in the parking lot” typology which is permitted as-of-right is not
From my analysis, I feel that these agreed statement of facts show that both sides agree that the concept of the development is not inappropriate for this neighbourhood. Following those agreed facts, the board analyzed the points of disagreement. The board found that:
  • The development conforms to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe because the plan calls for intensification within the built up area of the municipalities in the GTHA. Further, while the Plan does call for intensification in specific growth centres (of which Downtown Brampton is one), the Plan does not imply that growth outside of the growth centres should be restricted.
  • The development conforms to the Provincial Policy Statement because it is intensification without adverse effects. Had there been adverse effects (actual, not perceived), then the proposal would not be in keeping with the PPS.
  • Region of Peel planners concluded that the original development conformed to the Region's Official Plan, therefor a reduction under the revised proposal would also conform.
  • While the proposal does not conform to the letter of the City's Official Plan, it does conform to the spirit of the Plan. The Plan calls for intensification, but the type of intensification permitted is not good planning - both sides agree to this. Since development without adverse effects is better than no development at all (something planners concluded in a report from 2008), the development is in keeping with the spirit of a Plan.
  • Traffic will increase with the construction of the development, but it will be mitigated by a combination of upgrades the developer will fund and upgrades that the city was planning to do anyway.
  • The cash in lieu of parkland dedication is acceptable and consistent with the provisions of the Planning Act.
Based on these conclusions, the Board allowed the approval of the revised concept plan but on the condition that no tower exceed 20 storeys in height. Following this decision, the City of Brampton appealed to divisional court arguing that the board's decision was unreasonable and that giving greater weight to the City's Official Plan would have resulted in a different conclusion. After several months, the justice upheld the Board's decision allowing the development to proceed as approved. The Ontario Municipal Board is a lot like a court of law. A decision cannot be appealed simply because the verdict is unpleasant - an appeal can only be heard if an error in law was made. In essence, the answer to the question "Did the board do something they were not legally permitted to do?" or "Did the board fail to do something they were legally required to do?" must be at least a "maybe" to proceed to the next step in the appeal process. In this case, the justice found no evidence that the municipal board made an error in law.

For me, the conclusion to this case has been a Pyrrhic victory. The side that I supported won, but the online harassment and lost friendships was a high price to pay for my beliefs. But, I suppose this is the life of a planner - the tough decisions must be made and planners have to make them and champion them. We need to be heroes - not the ones that the public wants, the ones that they need.

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At 10/17/2010 3:15 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another example of Brampton building up every empty space of land it can (or selling out to developers who will).

More and more people are finding that "All roads lead to Brampton" also lead out of it, albeit congested in traffic.

At 10/17/2010 3:26 p.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

From my perspective, a sustainable-ish development generating tax revenue is better than a vacant lot generating no benefit to the city. This one has a commercial component, so hopefully some well-paying employers will locate there and help transform Brampton from a bedroom community to a diverse city - that will help reduce traffic congestion because people will be able to walk or take transit a short distance to their jobs instead of driving to jobs elsewhere.


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