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Council backs residents

Councillors vow to fight waterfront development as appeal heads to OMB

For more than a year, Oshawa residents have been actively opposing a subdivision development on a patch of land adjacent to Lake Ontario. Now, they have council on their side as the fight shifts to the Ontario Municipal Board.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa council has hopped off the fence and are officially backing residents call to halt a contentious subdivision development plan at the city’s waterfront.

During the Development Services committee meeting on April 16, councillors brought forward a motion opposing the application brought forward by SO Developments to place approximately 216 dwelling units on a patch of land west of Park Road South and south of Renaissance Drive.

The moves comes after council was delivered a pair of letters from a lawyer representing the developer notifying them they are appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to make a final decision on the development.

The letters came at the end of March, only a few short days before a shift in the province’s handling of the land appeal process.

Announced last year by the province was the disbanding of the Ontario Municipal Board and the creation of the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal. Most significant among the changes was the focus to place more weight on decisions made by local councils.

That change came into affect on April 3, and by getting the appeal request in ahead of that date, the developer was able to protect their right to have their appeal heard by the OMB under the old process.

During the meeting of council on April 9, citizens filled the council chambers, many of them left wondering how council would be proceeding with the appeals.

For Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, the decision to stand with the residents should quell a lot of uneasiness in the community.

“I think this motion comes forward at a very opportune time because there’s been a lot of angst in the community and a lot of angst in the councillors here at city hall,” he said.

A similar sentiment was shared by Councillor Amy McQuaid-England.

“I’m hoping that this gives solace to the residents in the community,” she says. “Hopefully we can move forward on a united front.”

However, for Oshawa resident Brian Nicholson, a former Oshawa councillor, who is supportive of council’s move to stand with the residents, he is concerned as to why the city was choosing not to share their reasoning behind their decision. Currently, that information is contained in a confidential city report.

As a member of activist organization Stop the Sprawl, a group that organized after the initial applications arrived before councillors in January 2017, he says they have a right to that information.

“If we’re to be up front in our approach to the OMB, we require to know what the city’s position is,” he says, noting that Stop the Sprawl is looking to apply for party status at the OMB to oppose the development on the frontline. “There’s no reason to hide it from anyone, there’s no reason to not allow it.”

However, Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, says some of that reasoning is particularly sensitive information, especially as things progress through the OMB process.

“We’re still fine-tuning our case with legal department and other witnesses,” he says. “It’s premature to start sharing that information particularly with (the developer).”

With that said, Ralph noted that the staff position contained in that closed report was the one supported by council to oppose the development, and he says a large part of that decision was based on reports from the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) and concerns raised surrounding environmental issues.

“We agreed with a number of the key issues that were raised,” Ralph says.

Previously reported by The Oshawa Express, in terms of the CLOCA analysis of the developer’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the conservation authority found a series of gaps, including information related to breeding birds, drainage, significant wildlife habitat and the migratory function of the lands. Gaps were also found in the reports related to the proximity to Lake Ontario, and the hydrogeological investigation.

The EIS, prepared by Niblett Environmental Associates (NEA) for the develper, found several bird species, but only one mammal (eastern cottaintail) and no reptiles or amphibians. However, CLOCA noted that only a single breeding bird survey was conducted on the site when in fact they require a minimum of two to be completed.

CLOCA also noted that further efforts needed to be done to identify the significance of the site as a migratory passage.

“Given the location of this property on the north shore of Lake Ontario, effort should be made to characterize this site in terms of a migratory stopover for Monarch butterflies and migratory birds and how the proposed development potentially impacts that function,” the CLOCA report reads.

The draft EIS prepared by NEA includes no mention of monarchs. However, the CLOCA Wildlife Corridor Protection and Enhancement Plan created in 2015 identifies this site as significant, not necessarily for the quality of the habitat, but the value it serves as part of a regional migration corridor along Lake Ontario.

“This regional corridor, while not continuous, recognizes the important function of east-west movement between the large habitat patches along the waterfront and provides valuable migratory stopover function,” the CLOCA report reads. “The omission of the migratory function this property provides, is seen as a significant information gap that a revised report must address.”

CLOCA was also looking for an updated assessment of the erosion on the edge of Lake Ontario due to the proximity of the development, especially when it comes to the additional water flow caused by the development itself.

“An assessment of erosion potential should be provided for the discharge of stormwater from the development into the existing swale and shoreline bluff,” the CLOCA response reads. “The increased drainage from the development is likely to increase the rate of erosion and gullying at the shoreline. Remedial measures will be required.”

Moving forward, the development is one of two the developer has appealed to the OMB, the second, which sits at the corner of Phillip Murray Avenue and Park Road, is set to be the topic of a separate city report through which council will state their position as well.

A date has not been set for when that report will come forward, and it’s expected that the OMB will not hold the hearings around both developments for some time.