By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s a story of yin and yang.
Two development proposals from the same developer, one has received a stamp of approval from Oshawa council, while the city is taking a stand at the Ontario Municipal Board against the other.
At the most recent meeting of council, residents frequently shouted from the gallery and openly called councillor statements into question as they discussed a motion to approve a development of 56 townhomes on the corner of Phillip Murray Avenue and Park Road South. The development was eventually given the green light with council voting 7-3 for the proposal’s approval.
Councillors John Aker, Dan Carter, Rick Kerr, Nester Pidwerbecki, Doug Sanders, John Shields and Mayor John Henry all raised their hands in approval of the project, while Councillors Gail Bates, John Neal and Amy McQuaid-England voted against it.
Councillor McQuaid-England was the most vocal opposition on council, stating that it is a councillor’s role to fight for their community.
“There is no requirement for us to say yes, we can say no and we can go to the new planning appeal tribunal,” she said. “What (the community) is asking from you is to enforce the zoning that was in place when they bought their homes.”
The proposal was initially presented in January 2016, when throngs of residents filled the council chambers to share their disdain for the development along with a secondary subdivision proposal from the same developer for a chunk of land adjacent to Lake Ontario south of Renaissance Drive and west of Park Road South. That proposal is now before the Ontario Municipal Board following an appeal from the developer. The city has already stated publicly they are opposed to that development in its current state.
In order for the development to move forward, council needed to approve the rezoning of the site to allow for the increased density that will come with a townhome development.
Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki was strongly in favour of the development, noting that all the proper testing and analysis had been completed and issues ironed out. He noted that a lot of the issues connected to the development “have been totally misunderstood.”
In particular, Pidwerbecki pointed to the decision by SO Developments, the developer behind the project, to withdraw its appeal for Block A from the Ontario Municipal Board. The developer had initially appealed both proposals being put forward, but later withdrew their appeal to have the decision around Block A seen by the OMB.
It was a move that surprised commissioner of development services Paul Ralph, and what he labels as risky. However, members of the public have seen it differently, noting that it would appear that city staff had given the developer some form of heads up that staff would be recommending to council that the proposal be approved.
It’s a claim that council and staff have denied.
“There has been no, I can use the term collusion, between staff and SO Developments,” Pidwerbecki said.
He further pointed to the fact that under provincial rules, the city is required to intensify lands within its “built boundary”, an area set up by the province that encompasses all of Oshawa more or less south of Taunton Road.
“That’s our boss speaking to us from Queen’s Park,” he said. “We’re required, through intensification, that that be developed.”
Pidwerbecki also pointed to the fact that, with the situation as it is now, with all the proper tests done and issues worked out with General Motors – who initially opposed the project – council would not stand a chance if they appealed to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.
“The facts before us tell us there’s absolutely no way we could win this,” he said.
However, it was a statement that Councillor McQuaid-England questioned, noting that the city has absolutely no experience with the new planning appeal tribunal process, launched by the province at the start of April. It was a statement confirmed by Ralph.
“We do not have any direct experience,” he said.
For Councillor Aker, the mover of the motion to approve the development, he saw no issue with the approval.
“I’m trying to be as sincere as possible,” he said. “This will be 56 families, in a niche townhouse development. It’s going to be fine.”
“Every place in our city is getting intensified. It’s not like it’s just one location,” said Councillor Sanders. “The thing is, it doesn’t stay as it is forever, let’s just leave it at that.”