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TBM council clashes with developer over attainable housing

Developer's representative argues Old Lakeshore Road 'not appropriate location for affordable housing'
Eden Oak
The Eden Oak Camperdown subdivision proposal.

A developer planning to build houses in Thornbury has pushed back against The Blue Mountains council for withholding approval of the plan until affordable or attainable housing was included in the plan.

At its meeting on June 6, council clashed with the consultant for the Eden Oak Camperdown subdivision proposal and later voted to ask Grey County planning staff for an explanation for how the county is implementing provincial requirements for affordable and attainable housing.

Vanessa Simpson, the planning consultant for Eden Oak, spoke to council at the meeting and presented council with a letter advising that the proposed subdivision was not an appropriate location for affordable and attainable housing. Council at its previous committee of the whole meeting had withheld its support for Eden Oak until the proposal addressed the Grey County goal of 30 per cent of the units being set aside for affordable/attainable housing.

“The subject lands, within the Old Lakeshore Road neighbourhood area, are not an appropriate location for affordable housing. The Old Lakeshore Road Neighbourhood Plan, as adopted by council, does not address affordable housing,” Simpson said at the meeting. “The lands are not conducive to providing affordable housing as there’s limited services including public transit, schools, and commercial and retail uses within walking distance. The subject application was deemed complete in October 2018. The County’s new Official Plan, with updated policies related to affordable housing came into effect in June 2019. The applicant purchased these lands in 2021, after an extensive due diligence period and received confirmation that the affordable housing policies would not affect this project, as it was deemed complete back in 2018.”

Simpson’s presentation did not sit well with members of council and the mood in the room didn’t improve when Simpson informed council that the starting price for units at Eden Oak would start at $1.9 million and be sized at a minimum of 2,400 square feet.

“Wow,” responded Mayor Alar Soever. “I guess that means we’re not going to be attracting too many young doctors to this development.”

Coun. Andrea Matrosovs said the suggestion from the developer that Eden Oak was not suitable for affordable/attainable due to a lack of nearby transit was not a strong one.

“Connectivity to transit is not a barrier to attainable housing,” said Matrosovs. “Attainable housing can be anywhere. Why is this not suitable for young professionals and families with children? Why is this different from anywhere else in The Blue Mountains and not suitable for attainable housing?”

At that point in the meeting, Simpson advised council she had no further comments.

Later in the meeting, council had to deal with the resolution it had passed previously at committee of the whole that made its support for the proposal conditional on 30 per cent of the units to be set aside for attainable/affordable units and for a further study to be done on the stability of the slope at the rear of the development, which is in hazard lands the town will own after the development is finished.

Council acknowledged that this subdivision application was deemed complete before the county’s current Official Plan, which includes the 30 per cent attainable/affordable housing target, came into effect and backed off on that requirement for approval. Council instead voted to ask county planning staff for an explanation for how the Planning Act and provincial policies around attainable and affordable housing were being considered during the application process.

Mayor Soever noted that the county is the approval authority on subdivision applications.

“We’re merely indicating our support, or lack of support (for the proposal), it should be conditional on county staff explaining how their support of this satisfied the Planning Act and provincial policy statement,” said Soever.

The amended direction from council was approved in a 7-0 vote.

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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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