Alberton council votes down re-zoning request

Elisabeth Heslop

Alberton council’s decision to deny a re-zoning amendment application last Wednesday night is not necessarily the end of the long and controversial story.
According to council’s resolution, its decision was based on concerns the proposed use of the land does not sufficiently conform to the township’s official plan and the intentions behind the “Business Park” zoning currently in place there.
If the application had been approved, the proposed purchaser of the property in question, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services Inc., would have moved its Training and Learning Centre (TLC) to Alberton from its current location in Watten Township.
The applicant, township resident Gayle Arpin, has the option to appeal council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board although neither she nor her agent, Cecil Horne, have said anything definite about their plans.
“The bottom line is that we were disappointed in the decision,” Horne said the day after the council meeting.
“Other than that, there’s not a whole lot that we can say right now.
“We have the timeframes that we have to work within and we have other options that we have to consider,” he added. “We need to look at what the rules are ahead of us and how we’re going to proceed.”
According to the province’s Planning Act, written notice of the council’s decision must be given to the applicant no later than 15 days after the date of the decision. The applicant may file an appeal no later than 20 days after the giving of notice is completed.
Township administration completed the giving of notice on Friday, Aug. 14, so the last day on which Arpin can file an appeal is Sept. 3.
During last Wednesday’s meeting, Weechi-it-te-win’s legal representative, Clint Calder, said that “Weechi-it-te-win is firm in its resolve that they believe they have the legal right to be there, and they believe that that’s the best property that they’ve been able to identify and they’re going to pursue it to the end.”
But until Arpin and Horne decide whether or not to appeal council’s ruling, Weechi-it-te-win is reviewing its options.
“Another option is actually to file another application rather than go the appeal route and maybe the new application might be based on, rather than the change to “Institutional,” might be based on just the minor amendment, keep it as “Business Park” with the exception.
“That option was discussed a bit last night, so that’s the other option,” Calder said Thursday.
The second option Calder referred to was brought to Alberton council’s attention in a May 27 planning report put together by the township’s administration.
The original application was based on the main aspect of the TLC being the school element. Since schools are not permitted in the “Business Park” zone, the application requested a zoning change to “Institutional.”
However, as the planning report points out, if the proposed facility is considered in the light that it is for youth “who require placement in a formal treatment setting,” the primary focus of the program becomes professional treatment.
The second option, then, would be to create a special “Business Park” zone (BP-1-H) that makes a small exception to “allow a dormitory as an accessory dwelling use,” the only aspect of the proposed facility that does not otherwise fit into the “Business Park” zone accepted uses when the program is considered to be primarily for professional treatment.
This option would have addressed concerns stated by some, including Alberton Couns. Doug Mitchell and Peter Spuzak, that the township would be better served, both now and in the future, by maintaining the “Business Park” zoning currently in place.
Although the BP-1-H zone was not in the original proposal, Alberton council did have the authority to make the change, with the agreement of the applicant, which they had. No motion was put forward on the change, however, and so council did not vote on it.
Among the conditions the BP-1-H option would have imposed were a commitment, by way of “written agreement,” to address the “financial requirements of the municipality with regard to the change in use” and the implementation of a site plan agreement.
Site plan control bylaws allow council to have a certain amount of control over the development and maintenance of the properties to which the site plan applies.
Calder called council’s decision to not go the BP-1-H route, or even vote on it, “short-sighted,” adding that if a successful appeal is made based on the resolution council passed, the township will have “lost the opportunity to stay involved and work with the applicant and Weechi-it-te-win going forward to satisfy all their issues.”
Alberton Reeve Mike Hammond didn’t agree the decision was necessarily short-sighted, but he didn’t deny the possibility the township could lose any control it might have had over the situation.
“I’m not saying it was short-sighted, that’s the way council wanted to go, but we do lose all of our say, I agree with that,” he admitted.
“I mean, it’s something that happened and that happens, and that’s the way council voted,” Reeve Hammond said, adding he’s not sure what made council decide the way it did.
“I don’t know how they think. I haven’t talked to them, I haven’t had any discussions with the councillors,” he noted. “But if that’s what they wanted, that’s what they get.
“That’s the way it goes, that’s the way democracy works,” he stressed.
Couns. Doug Mitchell and Mike Ford said they had no comment on council’s decision while Coun. Barb Cournoyer was unable to attend last Wednesday’s meeting due to medical reasons.