Residents feel left out in Golf Course Road case
HUNTSVILLE – Residents near a contentious Golf Course Road property want to know why their voices aren’t being heard.
Chris Marshall, director of planning for the Town of Huntsville, gave a brief update regarding 17 Golf Course Road during a planning committee meeting on Jan. 16. He said the town is working with the property owner to come to an understanding of how the property will be used and to develop design guidelines.
“Staff have met with the applicant and his representative. They have agreed to compromise on the plan,” said Marshall.
The property in question, owned by businessman Kris House, has been the subject of vehement debate in the community and around the council table for nearly three years.
Neighbouring residents were apprehensive about what the property would be used for and how it would affect their homes and the environment, especially since House was not willing to divulge what he intended to do with the property.
Council supported the residents’ concerns and rejected House’s application to rezone the property for light industrial use, despite the Official Plan allowing such a designation. Council stated it had concerns with whether the undisclosed use would be in keeping with the rural-residential character of the area.
House promptly filed a complaint with the Ontario Municipal Board, but agreed to mediation in lieu of a costly board hearing.
Marshall said the compromise the property owner has agreed to includes reducing the number of uses the property could have, reducing the area on the property that will be developed and providing the town with plans regarding what the property would be used for as well as a site layout.
“We have tentatively set up a meeting … to review the plans that they have, the idea being that this would address many of the issues the public had,” said Marshall. “Obviously, it doesn’t address the issue of the neighbours not wanting an industrial site there, but it does address the concerns related to the unknown.”
But Coun. Karin Terziano questioned why the neighbours had not yet been made a part of the conversations concerning the property. She noted that part of the terms of the mediation agreement was that the town, property owner and residents would be part of the discussion.
“It doesn’t appear there has been any meeting with Golf Course Road (residents),” said Terziano.
She noted land was being cleared on the property and said it was important to communicate to residents why this was happening.
Mike Gooch, executive director of development services for the town, explained that the property owner was removing the trees to determine where he could develop.
“We didn’t tell them to go cut trees down, but we asked them to come back with a little better defined and surveyed plan of where they would be located on the property so we could start to develop a meaningful site plan and proposal,” said Gooch. “We have no control on (tree removal).”
Coun. Brian Thompson seemed disappointed with the process so far and expressed an eagerness to get the residents involved.
“I get the impression that there was supposed to be a meeting between the applicant and the residents of Golf Course Road. They’re the ones who have a problem with this and it was council that backed up their concerns in the first place,” said Thompson. “It seems to me things have gotten out of whack here. I thought there was going to be more consideration for the residents to be more involved in the planning and development process.”
He said he felt the process wasn’t reflecting the spirit of the proposed mediation process.
But Kelly Pender, chief administrative officer for the town, said the ball is entirely in the property owner’s court until he decides what he will do with the land.
“Until the applicant decides what they want to do with the property, further discussion with the neighbourhood wouldn’t be productive. I mean, he could decide to withdraw his application and put up a hog farm. Or, he could want to pursue a residential operation,” said Pender. “Until they define what they want (to do) … meeting with anyone other than the developer at this point would only create false illusions as to what is going to happen. The developer is driving this process.”
Regardless, Terziano asked that the town communicate more with the residents regarding the status of the property and share the dates of meetings that take place.
Pender said staff would confirm meeting dates once they are determined.