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Developer says moratorium is 'stressful, frightening' for would-be purchasers

Council voted to recommend approving a new process to apply for exemptions; a special council meeting is set for Thursday to ratify the decision
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

An interim control bylaw has put a pause on new building permits in Collingwood – unless you can get an exemption.

During Monday’s strategic initiative standing committee meeting, developers and home purchasers took the opportunity to start pleading their cases to councillors for exemptions to the controversial interim control bylaw (ICBL) passed on April 26, which puts a moratorium on new development for one year while the town addresses water capacity issues.

Thom Vincent, president of Balmoral Village, provided one of many deputations on the subject. The continued development of the Balmoral Village subdivision, which includes condominiums and apartments as well as a build out of the medical centre, is one of the developments seeking an exemption from the ICBL.

“If planning and engineering had been on the top of their game, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” said Vincent. “What was planning doing when the alarm bells sounded years ago for the water treatment plant at the future capacity? If council is not asking those questions, then I don’t think you are doing your job.”

Even before passing the interim control bylaw that has effectively put a moratorium on any new building permits, council heard from local developers and their lawyers asking for exemptions for their sites. When council passed the moratorium on April 26, it was with a caveat that staff come back to council soon with a list of recommended exemptions for council to consider.

On Monday, town staff came back to councillors with a plan.

As part of that plan, two portions of projects – a Sunvale Homes development and a detached/semi-detached development north of Poplar Road and west of High St. – are being recommended for exemptions.

All other projects that have requested an exemption or plan to request an exemption, will be required to apply.

John Welton, president of Sunvale Homes, also provided a deputation.

“It has been a stressful and frightening five weeks for our home purchasers awaiting the issuance of building permits,” said Welton.

As Welton’s developments are one of the two who would be receiving an exemption if the staff recommendation passes, he ended his deputation by thanking council for honouring their commitment.

However, one councillor had additional questions for Welton.

Coun. Mariane McLeod asked Welton about a letter sent to home purchasers a representative of Sunvale Homes, calling council “duplicitous, deceitful and atrocious.”

“She said we made a decision knowing full well that our decision was going to have an unfair and disastrous impact on their lives,” said McLeod. “Do you stand by [this letter]?”

“No, I don’t,” said Welton. “I didn’t approve of that letter going out and I certainly didn’t see it.”

“I would never have allowed Sunvale to take that kind of position,” he added.

The staff report recommends council consider exemption requests on a case-by-case basis using an application system with a deadline of June 18.

Staff suggested weighing the exemptions against criteria such as servicing efficiency, timing of completion, the extent to which a proposal reflects the objectives of a complete community (such as affordable housing), and the developer’s willingness to sign an agreement promising to start building within a time limit.

Developers must apply for an exemption by June 18, and exemptions will be decided upon during a council meeting in July. At that July meeting, the town is planning to provide a further update on the status of water and wastewater system capacity.

The interim control bylaw already states building permits can still be issued where the building or renovation doesn’t change an existing use (rebuilding a home, adding on a deck, renovating a house, etc).

Any building permit issued before the bylaw was enacted on April 26 also still stands and building of those new homes can continue.

Under the rules of the interim control bylaw, staff are not issuing building permits for new homes or units because of a limit on the town’s water treatment plant to produce enough clean drinking water to keep up with new development in town.

The plant was due to be expanded in 2025, a process the town is hoping to accelerate.

“If this is passed, anyone who has applied so far, will receive information from the town setting out the information that’s required to complete the application, and then it will be considered in July,” said Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson. “We are in a difficult situation. We need to ensure the exemptions that are proposed are very clear-cut and granted right away so those developments can move forward.”

Coun. Bob Madigan expressed concern about councillors being used as “scapegoats,” and said by asking councillors to vote on individual developments, that system pits neighbour against neighbour.

“I would like to see some accountability on this. We are being put in the middle by the people who elected us, and who we serve,” said Madigan. “I have faith that staff can bring us one list – so we only have to vote once – and can see... the need of the community. Rather than see it piece by piece. I will not be voting for any exemptions as long as it is piece by piece.”

The committee voted in favour of the recommendation by a vote of 7 to 2, with Madigan and Coun. Steve Berman voting against. The decision will need to be ratified at a special meeting of council on June 3.

-with files from Erika Engel