A plan for a townhouse development that has been churning through Harrison Hot Springs council for two years got a little closer to being realized this week.
Kingma Brothers Developments is hoping to turn a four-acre strip of land along Hot Springs Road into a 26-unit complex. Some of that land would be gifted back to the Village for trail use along the Miami River.
The land in question is right across from the Village office, and is currently categorized as “resource” land. Over the past two years, council has requested a number of documents and studies from the developer, and all of those requests have been met to date. Those include a traffic study, an arborist study and, due to the proximity to the slough, a riparian assessment and approval from the Ministry of Environment and Department of Fisheries.
In addition, the initial plan revealed in 2010 called for 50 units, a size that was knocked down to 26 after previous consultation with the public.
The satisfaction of those requirements has prompted the next step in the process, which is to change the designation of the land to “medium density residential” from resource, as it is currently named in the Village’s Official Community Plan. The zoning bylaw also needs to be amended to include a new “comprehensive development zone” that staff said will apply only to this particular parcel of land.
The OCP change and bylaw amendment had received second reading at a previous council meeting, and went to a public hearing on Monday night. That hearing went for about 85 minutes, and was followed by a regular council meeting. At the council meeting, council eventually gave the changes a third reading. They will come up for adoption at a future meeting, possibly on the next scheduled meeting for August 13.
Neither of the Kingma brothers were in attendance at the hearing, but their representative, Ryan Anderson, was there to discuss concerns.
During the hearing, about a half dozen residents spoke against the proposal for various reasons.
Some worried that the creation of a comprehensive development zone on land that was previously pegged as resource and earmarked as resource in a future land use designation map, would set a precedent for other green space to be turned into housing developments.
Andre Isakov, Community & Economic Development Officer for the Village, said that he did not see the bylaw amendment as precedent setting, as it applies only to the one property.
But none were more vocally opposed than John Allen, who spoke three times during the hearing.
“I don’t know what we’re doing here when this is so contrary to the OCP,” he said. “We have a good and legitimate claim for this land to be parkland. Council should simply say no … reject the development.”
While the public hearing was only to discuss the land use changes, discussion often drifted onto issues related to the proposed development.
Some residents are concerned that the addition of 26 units on the already busy Hot Springs Road will increase traffic problems. Bunt and Associates were hired by the developer to study traffic flow, and council has accepted the result of that study.
The long discussion put an obvious seed of doubt in some members of council’s minds, including Sonja Reyerse.
“Someone said it could be precedent setting, and I’d like to (have that clarified),” she said. “If we are contravening everything in the OCP how is it that is sat at this table and got this far?”
John Buckley initially moved to have the issue tabled to be able to get more information about the development.
Reyerse seconded the motion at first, but after more discussion, she rescinded that second.
Councillor Zoltan Kiss said he would have liked to have seen the reports from Bunt and Associates, and the arborist’s report before making a decision.
Councillor Allan Jackson is the only member of council to remain from the previous council which dealt with the proposal and set out the requirements.
“What further information could there be?” he asked the other councillors. “Every time we have a proposal come to council we have the same people come to speak against it, (saying) the sky is falling. It would be nice to see something positive happening.”
In the end, the amendments received a third reading, with Kiss and Buckley opposed. In favour were Jackson, Reyerse and Mayor Leo Facio.
Facio said the Village must find ways to support development, to be able to thrive and provide services to its residents.
“Money doesn’t just drop from heaven,” he said.
If the adoption of the OCP change and bylaw amendment passes, Isakov said the developer’s next step would be to either apply to subdivide the property, or request a development permit.