Developers and residents spoke up during public information sessions this week on the town’s draft land-use planning study.
Two sessions took place on Tuesday – one for developers and another for the general public – to receive feedback on the first draft of the study from Meridian Planning Consultants, which seeks to outline a path forward for the town in regards to how new developments could be approved after the interim control bylaw (ICBL) preventing new building permits from being issued is lifted, while keeping water allocations under control.
About 70 participants joined in the session for developers and their agents. About 17 participants joined for the general public session.
An attendee from the general public session asked how Meridian Planning came up with the specific merit-based point system being proposed.
“I’ve recommended what I think will work for Collingwood. We’d like feedback on that to see if it resonates with Collingwood residents and developers,” said Nick McDonald, president of Meridian Planning. “We’re open to any suggestions on how it can be reworked or reworded or whether points should be re-allocated.”
As part of the draft report, the study team completed a jurisdictional review of comparable municipalities for the land-use planning study, obtaining best practices in water capacity allocation to create a draft Water and Wastewater Allocation Policy. The consultants concluded that the town should pivot away from servicing capacity allocation on a first-come-first-serve basis and move to a merit-based approach based on a points system.
The merit-based system would allocate points based on the inclusion of elements in a development proposal such as green technology, affordable housing, mixed uses, water conservation measures, employment generation, natural heritage protection, walkability, active transportation and intensification. Up to 100 points are available under the merit-based system, and any development proposed must score at least 75 points in order to proceed.
As part of their work, Meridian is also recommending changes to the Official Plan and zoning bylaws.
If lands have been approved before the water and wastewater allocation policy comes into effect, the town would review the status of each plan and make a determination on whether approval should be withdrawn or the conditions of draft plan approval changed. Once the new water treatment facility comes online, which is expected by 2026, the merit-based system would only be implemented in the event that two competing development proposals were submitted to the town.
“I’m very alarmed by this point system,” said John Welton, president of Sunvale Homes, during the developer session. “It feels very threatening.”
Welton said that, as an exercise, he tried applying the point-based system on one of his own developments to see what he would score.
“We’re shut out of a few categories. It’s a 90-unit townhouse project. Economic development is 10 points. How can we work on that?” asked Welton. “We can qualify for a portion of attainable housing, but our zoning doesn’t permit some of the mixes that will give us more points. We don’t have an opportunity for community impacts and benefits where we are.”
“We’re concerned the threshold of 75 points for approval is something we can’t meet. These points are very subjective,” he said.
Welton, along with a few other developers and some members of the public, asked how the process of point-scoring would work, and who would be tasked with deciding how many points are given to each project.
“Depending on where we land on what the final policy looks like, we’ll have to have subsequent discussions on how it will be implemented,” said Summer Valentine, director of planning, building and economic development with the town. “With anything relating to land-use planning with the town, there’s a partnership and an open discussion between the applicant, staff, and decision-makers around the council table.”
“I don’t expect this process to be any different than that,” she said.
Kenneth Hale, a developer with Dunn Capital, asked if the town had done an audit of the development projects currently on the books to see how many of them would be approved through the merit-based system.
“Given the timelines... we wanted to get this information out to the public as soon as possible to start to get comments,” said Valentine. “Staff are currently running through the scenarios with a sample of the developments.”
Vince Saccucci, vice president of operations for Nutak Holdings Ltd., asked if a triage filter could be added to the merit-based criteria asking whether a development would even require an additional allotment of water before being scored on the other criteria.
“In our specific example ... We’re giving water allocation back, yet we’d be required to seek these exemptions,” said Saccucci. “It seems nonsensical.”
McDonald said he didn’t have an answer.
“It’s certainly interesting, because developments may do that and maybe there should be some recognition for that,” he said.
As part of the general public session, one attendee asked if McDonald could provide examples of other municipalities where a merit-based system such as the one being proposed had been implemented.
McDonald said an appendix to the staff report on the issue identified multiple municipalities that have passed service allocation policies such as Uxbridge, Brantford, Newmarket and Vaughan.
“What I can tell you, is what we’ve [proposed] in Collingwood seems to go a little bit beyond what others have done,” he said.
Public feedback will be accepted through the Engage Collingwood website until Dec. 3. Final recommendations are planned to come back to council the week of Dec. 20.