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Official Plan review in TBM may include six-storey buildings

Proposed modifications range from housekeeping corrections/updates to more seismic changes that would increase development density and potentially allow six-story buildings in certain areas of Thornbury
OP open house
The Blue Mountains councillor Paul Hope speaks to the audience prior to a presentation at the Official Plan Review Open House on July 27.

Residents in the Town of The Blue Mountains have been given their first glimpse of what an updated Official Plan for the community may look like in the future.

On July 27, the town held a public open house to review the results of Phase 1 of the community’s Official Plan (OP) Review. The Blue Mountains kicked off the review process in late 2021 and has been gathering information and conducting research about potential new policies and updates to existing guidelines.

The proposed modifications range from simple housekeeping corrections/updates to more seismic changes that would increase development density and potentially allow six-story buildings in certain areas of Thornbury. Full details and background papers about the proposed modifications are available online.

A number of residents at the meeting told they wanted to see more information and justification around a modification being proposed that would permit buildings of up to six storeys to be built in Thornbury, along the Highway 26 corridor outside of the downtown core.

“I don’t want to see six storeys in the OP. I’m totally against it,” said Katy Leighton. “Eighty-six per cent of residents wanted to retain the character of the town, which does not include tall buildings.”

Leighton said at this point she has not seen any numbers to justify such a significant change.

“I want data that backs up all this need for density in a small community,” said Leighton.

Jim Torrance said he feels many in the community would support limited height increases if such a policy can be justified.

“Like a complicated math problem on an exam - you need to show your work. Show us the work telling us that is the right answer,” said Torrance. “If they can build a case, we and everybody in town is open to an increase in height.”

Brian Nelson said many in the community want to ensure the environment and climate change are recognized in the OP

“We just want good planning to be done. We want to make sure the process is logical and sound,” he said.

A crowd packed into the council chambers for a presentation on the issue and then broke into smaller groups for individual discussions with town planning staff and consultants. Residents in attendance had done their homework and articulately expressed both concerns and support from some of the potential policy changes.

“Everybody here is very well-informed,” said Coun. Paula Hope, the chair of the Official Plan Steering Committee charged with shepherding the project through the process. “I’m pleased with the questions.”

Hope said throughout the review process to date the issue of the community’s character has emerged as a primary concern.

“Character was the top issue. How do you preserve a small town?” said Hope.

Town senior policy planner Shawn Postma said the open house was a valuable experience.

“I had a lot of fun. I really enjoy these sessions. We’ve been researching these things for months,” he said, adding that it was great to get public feedback on concepts that have been under discussion during the process. “This community is so engaged.”

Postma said the next step in the process is a formal public meeting to be held on Aug. 8. The public is asked to submit their comments and concerns for review by staff prior to that date. Following the public meeting, staff will return to council to determine the next step on the path.

“We still have some work to do,” he said.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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