Residents of a neighbourhood on the west side of Simcoe are bracing for a summer of chainsaws and heavy equipment as developers prepare to remove the last significant woodlot within the town’s urban boundaries.
The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal approved a revised subdivision proposal in a wooded area off Lee Avenue at the end of 2019. The last step in the process involves Norfolk’s bylaw appeals committee granting the developers – William and Jenny Smith – an exemption to the county’s tree bylaw that would allow them to remove 3.5 acres of mature woodlot.
Norfolk’s bylaw appeals committee will hear the application on July 8.
Residents of the affected area say they are devastated. The woodlot contains many tall, mature hardwoods and is home to many species of birds and wild animals.
Lee Avenue resident Heather Showler represents one of nearly 45 households that have signed a petition against the development. Showler thinks it ironic that the subdivision will be known as Norfolk Meadows when the 67 housing units at issue will be presented in an R4 format as townhouses and stacked townhouses.
“This will cause potential soil erosion,” Showler said. “It will increase the urban heat-island effect. It raises property values to have greenspace like this. That’s why people want to move here.
“They’re taking away the very thing that makes this neighbourhood attractive.”
Along with Lee Avenue, the households that signed the petition are located on Thomson Road, Virginia Avenue and Oak Street. The neighbourhood primarily consists of single-family dwellings. However, in their ruling 18 months ago, tribunal members Blair Taylor and Marianna Arpino said compatible density is not a priority for the province in the area of housing development.
“It is abundantly clear that the revised townhouse development proposal is not the same as or identical to the detached dwellings that are to the north and east, which is the desire of the residents,” Taylor and Arpino said in their decision.
“Land-use planning in Ontario does not seek the same uses or identical forms of development. It seeks land-use compatibility. Compatibility, based on the tribunal’s jurisprudence, is usually regarded as being capable of co-existing in harmony.
“Here, the tribunal finds that – with the revisions that have been made with regard to the rear-yard setbacks; to maximum heights with existing detached dwellings, and the reduction of the number of units – the development proposal will be compatible with the existing neighbourhood.”
The original subdivision proposal that Norfolk council turned down in 2019 called for the construction of 74 units in a townhouse and stacked townhouse configuration.
A primary concern was the developers’ intention to place stacked townhouses 11 metres tall adjacent to the backyards of single-family dwellings of lower elevation. Following negotiation with county planning staff, the developers agreed to move the taller stacked townhouses toward the centre of the property.
With the revisions in place, Norfolk council subsequently approved Norfolk Meadows. Members of Norfolk’s bylaws appeal committee include Langton Coun. Linda Vandendriessche, Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin, Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele and Mayor Kristal Chopp as an alternate.