While Committee of Adjustment meetings tend to be uneventful affairs with applications for minor variances dealing with setbacks and whatnot, the meeting on June 13 was certainly a sight to be seen. The show was certainly worth the price of admission.
There were two applications before the Committee:
5 Rodney Avenue
This run-of-the-mill application was to request a variance for a covered front porch. Applicant responded to all questions and the application was approved, with some some concessions regarding the placement of the stairs.
52 Garden Drive
Here is where the meeting got interesting. This was a deferred application from the previous meeting where the applicant was requesting variance due to lot coverage. The zoning allows for 25% on Garden Drive, their original proposal was for 35% and the building of a two-storey “bunga-loft” on a street that for the most part is lined with small single-storey bungalows.
As was mentioned previously, there was a great community turnout at the previous meeting and the application was deferred for two weeks to allow for a re-design and the applicant and his agent were encouraged to speak to the neighbourhood to see if a compromised design could be reached. As it stood the proposed design did not fit the character of the neighborhood and the Planning department did not support it.
Fast forward to June 13 and after the first application, the applicant/developer were in attendance to re-hear the application but their agent/builder was not. Numerous residents of Garden Drive once again showed up to show their opposition to the application.
Further details of the revised application can be found in our previous post here.
The applicant/developer received a phone call and the agent/builder thought the meeting was actually on the Wednesday. The correspondence and opinion of the Planning Department was made available prior to the start of the meeting and like their previous conclusion, did not support the design of the building in the stable Garden Drive neighbourhood. In fact, there was not much change to the design only reducing lot coverage from 35% down to 32.2% (maximum is 25% as per zoning).
When the Chairman of the Committee asked the applicant whether they had any comments on the application (and the correspondence from planning not supporting the design), he leaped up into a rage and began making statements along the lines “why are we even here?”, “we are all just here wasting everyone’s time?”, “what is the point of everyone showing up?”. At which point he and his wife stood up, Mercedes keys in hand and headed for the door before the Committee and residents started discussing.
To the Garden Drive residents and the committee as a whole he began sputtering threats of going to “Plan B” and that he would be bringing something “Trump-style” to the community, in other words “you’ll be sorry”. To say the least, the applicant’s conduct was far from acceptable and he stormed off… but wait, the real surprise is yet to drop.
Residents were asked for their comments, which were reasonable and passionate (yet respectful) against this application. When asked if the applicant had attempted to consult with and compromise with the community, the residents said they heard from no one.
The residents went on to express how the existing home had been left half-demolished for weeks and was an eyesore, not properly boarded up and lacking compliance with property standards. Further concern from the residents was that the applicant despite assurances he wanted to move into the neighbourhood was simply a house flipper and had done the same on previous other properties, thus wanting to disrupt a stable neighbourhood to make a quick buck. Certainly the applicant’s conduct and lack of respect for the community lends itself to the prospect that this is a “for profit” application and not “their dream home they wanted to move into” as was asserted in the original meeting.
After some back and forth discussion, the Committee made a motion to vote on the application. Much to the shock and surprise of the Garden Drive residents, the Committee approved the application! The Committee took the position that “this is the way of the future” with older homes on larger lots being demolished to allow for bigger family homes.
This decision is unsettling in many regards… first it seems to reinforce (similar to the LJM threat of taking the Town to the OMB) that to get your way at Town Council and Committees you just have to issue these threats (within the confines of the law). Secondly, it seems that sound planning principles such as the Existing Stable Neighbourhoods policy and the subsequent opinion of the Planning Department that the application did not constitute good planning, have little weight and can be thrown out the window on a whim.
Although this application requires another variance, we hope that the residents band together and appeal to the OMB and get a fresh hearing on the matter.