Almost all new Country Lot Subdivisions now prohibited — Council, November 26, 2013

On November 22, as per instructions by Planning Committee on November 8, staff released an “omnibus motion” for consideration by Council at its meeting of November 26.  These latest changes in staff’s proposals for amending the Official Plan contained a surprise in section 3.7.2 dealing with the policy on Country Lot Estates.  In short, the City made a deal with Cavanagh: Cavanagh would drop its appeal of the 2009 Moratorium on CLEs in return for permission to proceed with two more country lot subdivisions comprising about 200 lots.

The documents don’t actually say this but City counsel Tim Marc provided these clarifications at Council. All the documents show is that five PINumbers would be allowed to proceed and that this last-minute change had something to do with Cavanagh’s appeal “and other issues.”

The Cavanagh parcels

Post-meeting inquiries with staff revealed that the municipal addresses of these parcels are:

+ PINs 04438-0313 and 04438-0314 : 7595 and 7559 Fallowfield Road respectively

These are two contiguous parcels between Flewellyn and Fallowfield Roads, east of Munster Road, Lot 12; click here for a map of natural heritage features on these parcels;

+ PINs 04446-0636, 04446-1670 and 04446-1995 : 6700 Hazeldean Road, and 251 and 329 Jinkinson Road respectively

These are three (very large) contiguous parcels between Abbott Street and Hazeldean Road, west of Black’s Side Road, Lots 18 and 19; click here for a map of natural heritage features on these parcels.

It is plain that both sets of parcels feature many wetlands (Provincially Significant and other) as well as “significant woodlands” — the Hazeldean/Jinkinson parcels are almost completely covered by trees.

Staff advises:

+ re 7595 Fallowfield Road and 7559 Fallowfield Road: “Schedule L2 shows the NHS overlay covering a portion of the property.  The overlay conforms with the boundaries of the significant woodlands in the attached map.  I also note the presence of unevaluated wetland on the property (although much of it appears to have been cleared).  Wetlands in conjunction with significant woodlands are also considered to be natural heritage features under the PPS.  The property does not lie within any of the 1 km linkages identified in the natural linkages analysis.”

+ re 6700 Hazeldean Road, 251 Jinkinson Road and 329 Jinkinson Road: “Schedule L3 shows the NHS overlay covering almost all of these properties.  The overlay conforms with the boundaries of the significant woodlands and provincially significant wetlands in the attached map.  I also note the presence of unevaluated wetland on the property.  Wetlands in conjunction with significant woodlands are also considered to be natural heritage features under the PPS.  The City is aware of reports of Blanding’s turtle in the vicinity of these properties, which could result in the identification by the MNR of Category 1, 2 and 3 habitat for Blanding’s turtle on portions of the property.  Portions of the property lie within one of the 1 km linkage areas identified in the landscape linkage analysis.”

+ re both:  “These NHS features will trigger the requirement for an Environmental Impact Statement in conjunction with any development application.  The presence and boundaries of any natural heritage system features must be confirmed through the EIS.  The EIS must also identify and consider any other natural heritage system features that could be present on the property, such as significant wildlife habitat and significant habitat for endangered and threatened species.”

+ Reading the black lines signifying woodlands on the maps can be a bit tricky: “The black lines … tend to delineate non-wooded portions of the property, because the majority of the site is wooded.  For example, … 6700 Hazeldean… lies in the center of a significant woodland polygon.  Immediately to the east of that label you will find an open wetland (which could be a fen?).  That area is surrounded by a black line, excluding it from the surrounding polygon.”

The parcels at Fallowfield are just to the east of a Cavanagh quarry. If houses are to stay away 500 meters there will not be much room for development!  So perhaps Cavanagh figures that there’s more money to be made building CLEs than continuing with the quarry.  Also note that the “unevaluated” wetland that covers much of the property was once accepted as provincially significant (Huizer evaluation, 2004) but that recognition was withdrawn due to the landowner’s site alteration.  (Here is a City map showing Goulbourn Wetland Complex wetlands recognized by MNR in 2005; the wetland in question is labelled “10.”)

The Hazeldean/Jinkinson parcels “take in parts of the Provincially Significant Goulbourn Wetlands Complex (including parts of the Upper Poole Creek Wetland portion of that wetlands complex) which are presently designated “EP3” (Environmental Protection) in the City’s present zoning by-law” (advice from Ken McRae.  Click here for a map of the whole Goulbourn Wetland Complex as MNR saw it up to May 2008).

The debate at Council on November 26

At Council on the 26th this deal, along with the prohibition of any future CLEs, was approved but not without some debate and with no fewer than four attempts to weaken the policy. (Discussion of these matters starts at 1:38:20 on the video record.)

First up for debate was the deal with Cavanagh.  Councillor Moffatt (who, along with Councillor Thompson, was part of the OPA’s Sponsors Group) said he was supportive of prohibiting further CLEs but questioned this deal, as did Councillor Clark.  Will this not encourage appeals, they wondered, seeing that it pays off.  City counsel Tim Marc conceded that it could but pointed out that, this time around, the record of parties that had expressed opposition was significantly thinner than in 2009.  More on appeal prospects below.

A vote was then held on section 3.7.2.  Councillors Moffatt, Thompson and Blais wanted to be recorded as “dissenting on the amendment to Section 3.7.2 set out in Attachment 2” (quoting from the Minutes, which amend the Disposition in an effort to make clear that the dissent was about the Cavanagh deal only, not the new policy of prohibition.)

Council then saw no fewer than four attempts to weaken the proposed prohibition of further CLEs.  (The written record does not show who moved & seconded certain motions.)

1- First up was a proposal to weaken the requirement that, while up to three severances are allowed, ten hectares of agricultural land has to remain.  The proposal was to reduce this to eight hectares.  The motion was defeated 15 to 8.

2- & 3- Then came successive motions to allow exceptions for specific properties which didn’t meet the 10-ha requirement (6430 Snake Island Road and 3109 Ashton Station Road).  They were defeated in two identical 14 to 9 votes.

4- Then Councillor Blais moved that the “Estate Residential” portion of Cumberland Village be allowed to proceed.  (He described it as the “hole in the village.”  The designation was found in the former City of Cumberland Plan.)  Staff countered that there is a 15-year supply of country lots in Cumberland.  The motion failed 12 to 11.

To round off this portion of the debate, there was a motion to expand the boundaries of the Village of Greely.  This proposal had been the subject of two slick videos at Planning Committee on November 8.  Staff countered that there is a 16-year supply of village lots in Greely.  The motion failed 15 to 7.

What it all means

Clearly, Cavanagh will not have an easy case to make for their plans, given the multitude of natural heritage features on the subject properties.  They can count on close scrutiny of their Environmental Impact Statement.  The hard reality is, however, that, prior to filing any application, a landowner can make any number of changes on the ground (save for PSWs), due to the absence of a site alteration by-law and a tree protection by-law in rural areas.

How likely is it that the new policy on CLEs will be appealed?  Methinks Tim Marc is underplaying the chances.  A major CLE developer, Sunset Lakes, and Trevor Davies, Israr A. Akhtar, Charles Mckenna and Osmond Bakker are on record as opposing the new policy (Document 7, tabled for the November 8 Planning Committee meeting).  The Alliance, Ecology Ottawa and SMH-CRC Inc., are listed as supportive of the policy; the FCA’s submission also included support of the prohibition.  The Minutes of that meeting list another 37 parties who sent in written submissions.  Some of these include our friends whom we know wrote in support (including many expressions of support for the FCA’s submission) but otherwise, short of asking the Clerk for copies of all the written submissions, it is difficult to ascertain if anyone else established appeal rights on the CLE policy.  (Exception: “Ms. Judy and Mr. Jeff Varga-Toth*, Re: Country Lots in Official Plan”.  Not clear whether they wrote in support or opposition.)  Should the policy be appealed, the Alliance and many others will have no difficulty being accepted as a Party.

Finally, what does this all mean for the long term?  Having the prohibition in the Official Plan (this is staff’s third try in 10 years) is most certainly progress.  But the OP is reviewed every five years and there are 2800 lots still in the pipe (a mid-2012 staff estimate, to which must now be added Cavanagh’s 200) so there is lots of scope for construction over the next five years and more.  There is no reason to think that in 2019 the issue will not again be raised.  The advantage is that, if Council does not vote for a change in 2019, it cannot be appealed.


(The above report combines postings to the GA List of November 30 and December 3; revised and updated, December 4, 2013; revised again on December 12, after corrections to the record made by the Clerk’s office — see exchanges posted to Unpublished Ottawa.)