Residents vow to appeal re-zoning decision

Duane Hicks

Some local residents plan to appeal the re-zoning of the “Nelson Street Park” to the Ontario Municipal Board after council voted 6-1 on Monday night in favour of amending the zoning bylaw to re-zone the property for residential development.
Council also passed a bylaw to re-zone the property on the corner of Minnie Avenue and Front Street from tourist commercial (C4) to “open space” to offset the eliminated open space that would result from the conversion of the “Nelson Street Park.”
“Yes we’re disappointed, but I can honestly say none of us are really shocked because we believe that the town’s council mind was made up long before Dec. 12,” charged Kalan Kielczewski, who has helped spearhead the campaign against the re-zoning.
“We feel that they met with us not because they wanted to, only because they had to.
“Obviously, Mr. Albanese was the only one we could reach as a person.
“I tried to appeal to everybody to look at it from a parental perspective, an environmental perspective—‘How would feel if this was in your backyard?’ We fought for this four times—doesn’t that mean anything to you?’” Kielczewski added.
“I think it’s sad we only got through to one person in the whole entire panel, but I guess it is what it is.
“We do plan on appealing to the OMB,” Kielczewski vowed. “This does not end here tonight, not for us. We’re going to see this through to the bitter end.
“Nobody was lying when they said that Nelson Park matters to us. It does very much,” she stressed. “We’re going to see this all the way through to the very end.
“If we’re successful, great. If we’re not, we feel like we’re successful anyway because we fought four times.
“We didn’t just sit back and take it,” Kielczewski noted.
A notice of passing was published in yesterday’s Daily Bulletin, which means the residents have 20 days after the publication date of the notice of passing to file an appeal with the OMB, which, in turn, may set a date for an appeal hearing.
“Obviously, I am disappointed. We’ve been through this enough times,” said fellow resident Michelle George, who was among those who opposed proposed re-zoning amendments in past years.
George asked council and administration to provide the definition of a conflict of interest, noting that she believed it’s possible a member of the Committee of Adjustment may have had a conflict of interest in recommending that the property be re-zoned, since the individual may want to purchase some of the re-zoned property in the future.
However, the Times learned yesterday that while the Committee of Adjustment member moved the resolution in favour of re-zoning the property in question, the person did not vote on said resolution.
Even though the individual did not feel they had a conflict of interest, they had abstained from voting to avoid even the perception of such a conflict.
When asked why he voted against the re-zoning, Coun. Albanese said the area residents made their case, spoke well, and are adamant the property remain open space—and he supports them.
“We have to listen to the people sometimes,” he remarked. “They are the ones that elected us, they are the ones that pay taxes.
“I support the decision of council, in a way, because they are the people running the town,” added Coun. Albanese.
“I got my opinion, they got their opinion—we have to express out opinions, this is a democratic world.
“I have to express my opinion, and I am not in favour of the re-zoning,” he stressed.
The rest of council voted in favour of re-zoning the “Nelson Street Park” because the town needs more residential lots.
“We are dramatically short of good quality building lots in this town,” Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said yesterday when asked why he voted in favour of the re-zoning.
“There’s a few lots interspersed throughout the town as in-fill spots, but not many of those, and, in my opinion, they’re not top-quality, either,” he added.
“Who wants to build a $300,000 home in a ‘brownfield,’ a recovery, reclamation spot?” he wondered.
During the strategic planning process earlier this year, council and administration looked at all the properties in town and ranked them in priority of ease to develop, cost to develop, availability, and what is the payback on some of the properties.
After doing that lengthy planning process, it was determined the open space at Nelson Street, commonly referred to as the “Nelson Street Park,” was a number-one priority because of its ease to develop, its immediacy, its prime location, and its payback in a short period of time, Coun. Wiedenhoeft explained.
“What we’re trying to do is move forward in the most cost-effective manner, and one that would have the least disruption in the community,” noted Mayor Roy Avis.
“And when we looked at that, we looked at the Nelson Street area and we felt that would be a good start.
“We’ve had such a demand for residential lots in the community—60-foot lots so that people can build within the community,” the mayor added.
“We’ve been approached many times, and this is why we sat down and looked at it.”
“What we thought we would do is develop the open space on ‘Nelson Street Park’ to give us some capital, and use that capital to go forward to develop some of these other properties that will give us more long-range properties that we can use,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft explained.
“Because we’ve got a dwindling tax base in this town, and people are actually moving out of town who would like to build in town, and if we do get new people—if we do get new dentists, new teachers, we’re looking at a new doctor coming to town—if we do get these professionals coming to town . . . they want good quality building lots and they want them immediately.
“To me, we needed to develop these lots because of the dwindling tax base and the availability of immediate lots for these people that wanted to build.
“It just made sense to me,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said.
“We do appreciate the people’s position that live in and around ‘Nelson Street Park’ because it’s a beautiful green space,” he added. “None of us really want to consume green space in the town to put up residential lots but it’s one of the things that, in this case, we’ll sacrifice.
“And we did put a re-zoning on that property at end of Minnie and Front Street to compensate for it.”
Coun. Wiedenhoeft admitted the latter property is not as “prime” as “Nelson Street Park,” but it is green space and “if a kid wanted to go fly a kite there, I am sure it would be safe enough to use.”
Mayor Avis stressed council conducted the re-zoning process in an open, transparent, and proper manner, referring the matter to committees for review and holding meetings regarding the proposed re-zoning.
“It flowed through, and council made a decision [Monday] night to pass a bylaw and start the process to converting that into building lots,” he reasoned.
Mayor Avis also said council took “meticulous” care in “making sure the right decision was made.”
“We’ve done due diligence, we’ve done our jobs,” he said. “Council has taken a real good look at it, and made sure no stone is left unturned in the decision that they made this time.”
Although the residents attending Monday’s meeting expressed some displeasure over not being able to speak during it, Coun. Wiedenhoeft said council follows a specific process and procedure during meetings.
He noted the public was given opportunities to provide input on the matter at the Dec. 12 meeting and during Planning and Development executive committee meetings.