A controversial plan to build a cluster of condo units beside two protected areas in southeast London failed to get the support of the city’s planning committee Monday, setting up a final decision at council and a possible appeal to the province’s land planning tribunal.
A motion to support a staff recommendation in favour of building 88 condo units at 101 Meadowlily Rd. S. failed in a 2-4 vote at committee with only Mayor Ed Holder and Coun. Anna Hopkins voting in support. The four other committee members — councillors Steven Hillier, Steve Lehman, Shawn Lewis and committee chair Phil Squire — voted against the staff recommendation.
The planning application now heads to full council at its April 13 meeting. However even if the application is voted down at that stage, it’s unlikely to halt development on the property because the developer could file an appeal to the province’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
It’s the latest twist in a planning application to build 10 townhouse blocks comprising 52 residential units plus 36 single detached dwellings on a five-hectare (13-acre) parcel.
The proposal has drawn strong criticism because it borders two unspoiled protected areas: Highbury Woods and the Meadowlily Woods Environmentally Sensitive Area.
Opponents of the application argue the condos would be esthetically out of place in what is otherwise a largely undeveloped corner of the city. They’ve also expressed concerns that Meadowlily Road South, a dead-end, two-lane road with gravel shoulders, would have trouble handling the traffic generated by the new condos.
Those arguments were raised again last night by 12 residents who spoke against the plan.
Kelley McKeating of the local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario said the proposed development simply doesn’t fit on a road with the dimensions of a country lane. She described the area as unique and worth preserving.
“To put a development squarely in the middle of one of the last remaining rural landscapes in the city is the antithesis of urban intensification,” she said. “This is a place that should remain natural and if it doesn’t … the density should be a lot lower than 88 houses.”
The plan first came before the city’s planning committee in October but the developer opted to defer the application to make changes in response to residents’ concerns.
Those changes in the amended application include:
A design change that turns driveways of some of the detached units back toward one of the purposed subdivision’s two internal streets, eliminating 14 driveways from entering onto Meadowlily Road South. Vehicle access to the new subdivision would be limited to two entry points via a u-shaped road.
Increasing the number of visitor parking spaces to 31, up from the original proposal of 10, to limit the number of vehicles parking on Meadowlily Road South. The road frequently gets clogged by people who park while they hike on the nearby trails.
A 35-metre buffer around the site, which was part of the original plan, remains. Lands inside this buffer will be dedicated to the city and designated as open space to protect the surrounding woodland.
Dinal Peramune co-owns the property. He said the amended application goes a long way toward addressing residents concerns. He also said he’s disappointed at the result of the planning committee’s vote.
“We’ve made significant changes here. We have been able to minimize any effect on the surrounding area,” he said.
Peramune pointed out that the parcel has designation that allows for residential development in the London Plan.
“If we don’t develop it, somebody will come and develop it,” he said.
Peramune wouldn’t say if he would pursue an LPAT appeal should full council follow the planning committee’s lead and vote down the application.
However committee chair Squire said that remains a concern.
“If we vote against it, they will appeal and they will have a wonderful record, in my opinion, for appealing in that our staff has recommended this,” he said.
Coun. Lewis said the proposal “does not respect the natural environment” that surrounds it. Coun. Lehman said after visiting the site, he also doesn’t think the proposal fits the natural area.
The planning application for the property next heads to full council for a final vote on April 13.