By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
When it comes to proposed developments near Oshawa’s waterfront, something doesn’t add up – at least that’s the thinking for a group of residents now calling for an independent peer review of a series of consultant reports associated with the proposal.
“We do believe that there was a lot of information that was left out of the reports. It seems that they did the bare minimum according to the laws that pertain to these sorts of reports and applications to municipalities,” says Szanne McNutt with the resident activist group Stop the Sprawl.
The current proposals from Graywood Developments include Block A, a 1.12-hectare wedge of land directly on the corner of Phillip Murray Avenue and Park Road South, with plans to place eight block townhouses with a total of 56 dwellings and 132 parking spaces on the site; and Block B, a much larger proposal for a nearly 26-acre site sitting directly on the waterfront of Lake Ontario, south of Renaissance Drive and west of Park Road South. Block B could see 216 units erected on the site, including 184 single detached dwellings and 32 semi-detached units.
In order for the project to move ahead, the land must be rezoned from its current urban reserve status to a residential zoning. As support for its proposal, Graywood commissioned a series of consultants to study the land and analyze everything from erosion to wildlife to hydrogeological formations, archaeological significance and other environmental impacts.
For McNutt and Stop the Sprawl, the biggest weakness in the proposal is the environmental report, which she says does very little to represent the biodiversity and wildlife at the waterfront site. Following the release of the document, images of deer, owls and other wildlife on the lands flooded social media. The data, gathered between June and August of 2016, also does not account for the monarch butterfly, a common site during the spring months.
Flaws have also been pointed out in the consultant reports regarding the hydrogeological investigation, which analyzed the groundwater conditions and appears to be incomplete, and the erosion hazard assessment, which appeared to incorrectly state just how far back the development needed to be.
And according to McNutt, it doesn’t end there.
“We’re not done yet. There’s still some other stuff and other comments that we’ll be collecting and we’ll be relaying as well,” she says. “The idea is, if we can convince them to do a peer review, it will do two things – it will stall them for probably another year and it will cost the developer money and the longer we stall and the more we cost the developer money, the greater the chances are that they’ll give up and walk away.”
According to Ryan Guetter, the lead consultant for Graywood, all the reports completed by the developer were done in accordance with guidelines set out by planning staff and through “application pre-consultation.”
“We have let city staff know that we have no issues with sharing these reports with interested parties as we continue to work our way through the planning process, which will include addressing comments received on the reports by departments and agencies,” Guetter states in an emailed response to questions from The Oshawa Express.
Previously, the development also drew the ire of the nearby GM General Assembly, which wrote a letter claiming the development of Block A could handcuff any further expansion on the southern edge of its location. Now, Unifor Local 222, the union representing a large portion of the plant’s employees, has joined the fray as a letter from Colin James, the union’s president, states the union opposes the development “as currently described.”
“We are concerned the report has made assumptions about General Motors Canada and its operations in Oshawa and has assumed the facility will never be modified from its current configuration,” James writes. “It appears Graywood’s proposal may restrict General Motors in obtaining new or additional product for its Oshawa complex.”
According to Warren Munro, the city’s director of planning services, such a peer review can be requested by city staff and billed back to the developer.
“We do peer review documents when there is a determined need to do so and yes we would charge that back to the developer,” he says. “It is 100 per cent cost recovery.”
He adds that those decisions would be completed at a staff level without going to council, but no such requests have been made up to this point.
“Not as yet, we’re still reviewing the information that has been submitted to determine whether there is a need to,” he says.
Munro was hesitant to guess when an update would be coming forward.
“We will continue to process it in our normal manner.”