Gail Martin, Independent Editor
Woolwich councillors have given their stamp of approval to modifications to the Lunor subdivision – the largest development ever for the town of Elmira.
When completely built out, over the next 15 years or so, the subdivision could contain up to 1749 homes, a new firehall for Elmira firefighters, as well as a new elementary school and parkland.
At the June 25 council meeting, councillors gave their approval to modifications that will allow a new sanitary sewer servicing scheme for the development, changes to the overall phasing of the services, as well as other minor housekeeping matters.
However, there were still some outstanding areas of disagreement between the developers and the township that had to be addressed at the June 25 meeting.
Tom Hardacre, from IBI Group, told councillors that his clients expected a credit for fees paid for peer review studies undertaken during the review of the subdivision application, calling the peer review fees a form of “double dipping,” since the developer was already paying the township engineering fees for the review of the application.
Hardacre also said that township staff did not let his clients know about the need for peer review fees until more than a year into the application process.
John Scarfone, a planner with the township, told councillors that the peer reviews were to deal with reviewing the application prior to approval, while engineering fees are used to prepare the plan of subdivision, and conducted detailed reviews of the actual engineering design of the subdivision.
“The idea of the peer reviews is to review those things that require expertise that we do not have on staff,” said Scarfone, noting that the peer reviews had been conducted on hydrogeological, traffic and market analysis studies.
“If we didn’t have the peer review bylaw, the alternative would be to have higher engineering fees,” said Scarfone.
Dan Kennaley, director of planning and engineering, also defended the township’s contention that the peer review bylaw could be applied to the Lunor subdivision, even though the plan of subdivision was originally presented to the township prior to the passing of the peer review bylaw.
“We were still in the process of reviewing this application (when the bylaw was passed,” said Kennaley. “I think it’s only appropriate when we are still reviewing the application, that we apply the process for peer reviews.”
Councillor Allan Poffenroth, however, raised the question of what would happen, should the developer bring the issue to the Ontario Municipal Board.
“They would lose,” said Kennaley, citing a ruling from a previous OMB hearing.
“The OMB said that it isn’t going to be necessary to apply rules that were in force when the application was made — rather, good planning must prevail.”
The peer review fees charged to the Lunor subdivision amount to $25,000.
Lunor will, however, receive a credit towards engineering fees for work they undertook to determine the need for upgrades to the Victoria Glen pumping station, as the township is accepting responsibility for the cost of this work.
The second issue of contention over the plan of subdivision is the township’s insistence that the dedicated parkland be built with structural fill, not simply covered with topsoil.
Matt Ninomiya, an engineer with Stantec Consulting, told councillors that this requirement could cost the developer an additional $700,000.
There was some contention on the part of Lunor representatives that the requirement for structural fill was a late addition to the overall plan, one they weren’t prepared for.
Recreation director Karen Makela, however, told councillors that as soon as the township learned of Lunor’s intention to use topsoil on the parkland, she raised a flag that this could be a problem.
The township hopes to use the parkland for additional soccer fields for Elmira, said Makela, and there is some concern that the fields would subside if structural fill is not used.
Makela said she consulted 15 other municipalities, as well as a geotechnical engineer, to come up with her recommendation.
“We want to ensure that what we’re getting is suitable to our needs,” said Makela. “We indicated our requirements, when it was brought to our attention what the developer’s intention was.”
As a means of temporarily resolving the issue, the township has agreed to defer a decision on the parkland until phase four of the development, when the parkland would be created.
However, councillor Mark Bauman urged township staff to come up with a solution that would work for both the developer, and the township.
“We didn’t have a standard set out, and the developer did not communicate (with the township),” said Bauman. “Both parties need to shoulder some responsibility for this oversight.”
Councillors passed the modifications to the draft plan of subdivision, with the understanding that the parkland issue will be resolved at a future date.