BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – An observer of Monday’s North Perth council meeting could easily be forgiven for feeling confused, as council struggled to deal with reconsiderations of two zoning amendment bylaws.
The Sept. 22 meeting stretched late into the evening as council discussed two notices of motion brought forward by Coun. Ken Buchanan and Coun. Dave Ludington to reconsider zoning amendments previously defeated by North Perth council. Even before council was able to get either motion on the floor for discussion, council needed to be made clear on the proper procedure after two members were unclear on what they were voting for.
“That happens when you have new members, or sometimes you need to be reminded of what the Municipal Act says, as well as your procedural bylaw,” Mayor Julie Behrns said following the meeting. “The wording sometimes trips people up on what they’re voting on.”
Behrns added that reconsideration of motions is not a common issue at North Perth council.
“It is not a normal occurrence to have reconsiderations, so because of that the system gets confusing as what they system is to follow,” Behrns said. “We look to our clerk and our deputy clerk heavily to guide us along the way to reconsider any decision.
The two zoning amendments up for reconsideration both dealt with the development of townhouse units on Anger Street East and Albert Street North in Listowel, which were both defeated by North Perth council following public meetings where residents expressed concern over how the developments would impact the neighbourhood. Council first discussed the Anger Street East amendment from developer Howick Homes Ltd., which was brought forward for reconsideration by Coun. Ken Buchanan.
“That’s where the demand is for senior housing,” he said. “Why not build something like that opposed to a single family dwelling that is going to sit?”
Planner Stephen Cornwall commented that the application was line with planning guidelines under the Provincial Policy Statement, as well as the Perth County Official Plan, but Coun. Warren Howard argued that the PPS planning objectives are meant to be considered as a whole, not necessarily on a specific site or development.
“This policy statement seems to be coming to be applied to every lot in the municipality,” Howard said. “It doesn’t make sense, we should be able to push back on what I think is inappropriate development.”
A recorded vote was requested by Buchanan, resulting in council approving the zoning amendment by a vote of 8-2, with Howard and Deputy Mayor Vince Judge in opposition.
The second notice of motion was brought forward by Coun. Dave Ludington, who felt the amendment from O’Malley Homes Ltd. was worth a review to avoid a costly Ontario Municipal Board appeal by the developer, even though he personally disagreed with the planning.
“I didn’t feel that all the taxpayers of North Perth need to pay for the OMB hearing,” Ludington said. “Those homes could have gone somewhere else, but that’s where they chose to put them.”
Again, Howard expressed his concern over the density of the project, especially on Albert Street North, a dead-end street.
“Given the absense of structure in the whole area to the east of this, I think there’s an opportunity for the developer to relocate the development and conform to the original plan,” Howard said. “Having driven up the street, I think the residents have very valid concerns.”
A second recorded vote was requested by Coun. Doug Kellum, resulting in the amendment being carried 9-1, with only Howard in opposition.
When questioned by The Banner on how council weighs future development in the event of concerns from residents, Mayor Behrns said the concerns expressed by residents such as traffic and narrow streets already exist, and have no bearing on an application that meets all of the planning criteria outlined in the PPS and county official plan.
“While it may be an issue for the area, that doesn’t necessarily affect the application,” she said. “That is what council has to separate; are they issues for the application, or are they issues for the area?”
Behrns also said that potential appeals to the OMB by developers were not a factor in reconsidering the zoning amendments.
“There could potentially be appeals now, and those that made comment in the public meetings would be allowed to appeal,” Behrns said. “Whether it’s a developer or members of the public that are appealing, I don’t think that makes any difference.”
Members of the public who made comment during either of the public meetings are able to make an appeal to the OMB during a 20-day period.