Kawartha Lakes council prioritized the need for housing in Fenelon Falls over the range of objections of a handful of people who were determined to block a new development from being built.
Council approved a bylaw to sell a surplus Fenelon Falls property adjacent to Juniper Street for potential future development, despite five deputations presented by local residents opposing the sale.
Dave Sturtevant, Jo-Ann Kerr, Lois Hatch, Amanda Allan and Sharon Larman presented for close to 30 minutes which detailed reasons for the city to rescind selling the property to the Fenelon Community Housing Initiative – a non-profit. The FCHI wants to build two 45-unit apartment blocks on the two acre parcel with a handful of the units reserved for geared-to-income housing and some others available for individuals who need assisted living arrangements.
David Sturtevant, a long time resident of Fenelon Falls, began the deputations suggesting that Fenelon Falls “does not have the service, transit or infrastructure” to support all the new housing planned for the community.
“Has any capacity been added to the sewage treatment plant?” Sturtevant asked council.
Sturtevant argued that there is too much development occurring on the south side of the bridge in Fenelon Falls.
“With insufficient infrastructure and no funds for upgrades in the budget this year, the development at Juniper Street should be suspended until the upgrades have been done,” Sturtevant said.
Jo-Ann Kerr focused her deputation on the need to preserve recreational land in the village.
“I have never witnessed recreational land being sold to a developer before,” Kerr said, “and this space needs to be kept green to prevent flooding and limit harmful runoff.”
Kerr expressed frustration with the entire Juniper Street process saying “residents feel Doug Elmslie (their local councillor) and the press are against them.”
“The movement against this project is growing,” Kerr warned, “and we are going door to door gathering signatures on a petition to oppose this development.”
Kerr closed her deputation claiming that the city has left money on the table by selling to FCHI rather than another individual who she said contacted the city offering substantially more to keep the property in its current natural state only to be told the land was not for sale.
Lois Hatch, a retired teacher and local real estate agent, picked up where Kerr and Sturtevant left off.
“I am concerned how quickly these projects are being approved…with concerns about potential traffic issues and building on a flood plain seemingly ignored by the city.”
“I believe all this development is going to to do is create a new bottleneck behind Sobeys,” Hatch said.
Hatch reminded council that zoning would be required to build on the parcel adjacent to Juniper Street and that the original owner of the property entered into an agreement with the city in 1990 that “the land be left green.”
“Infrastructure needs to come first, then human services, then buildings,” Kerr concluded suggesting that no building should commence in the village until the bypass is built and traffic issues are dealt with first.
Amanda Allan, a mother of young children who lives on Murray Street, says traffic is already an issue where she lives and told council of her “difficult walk” taking her children to Langton Public School.
“I believe that the development on Murray (and Juniper) will only make this worse,” she suggested.
Allan told council that her children have been using the Juniper Street property as a “nature corridor” enjoying the green space as it is currently constituted with its many different varieties of animals.
“We need to keep some green in the community,” Allan said adding, “Fenelon Falls is not a community prepared for this kind of development.”
Sharon Larman, who delivered a deputation at an earlier council meeting, concluded the presentations by reiterating the deal made by the city in 1990 to take control of the land and keep it as a park.
“In a written bill of sale the city promised to keep the land a park,” Larman said, “and besides the legalities what of the moral obligation of keeping that signed agreement?”
“Where is the trust?” Larman wondered.
Later in the meeting council went to closed session to discuss the appraisal on the Juniper Street property that had finally become available and whose estimate could make or break the deal for the developers.
Council returned approximately 40 minutes later to open session and the only mention of the estimate process was Elmslie, suggesting “there was no value in getting a second appraisal after hearing discussion in closed session.”
Council then brought forward a motion to finalize the sale of the Juniper Street property for the appraised price to the FCHI.
A recorded vote was called for and the sale was approved 7-2 with Councillors Ron Ashmore and Kathleen Seymour-Fagan voting against the transfer of the property.
One former councillor, who asked for anonymity, while pleased with the sale, cautioned anyone starting to celebrate prematurely.
“The builder has only cleared the first hurdle. The land was sold as is. There was no guarantee of re-zoning approval necessary for the building to be built. I suspect these same opponents are going to make their presence felt at the LPAT(Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) meetings that will be necessary to get the zoning changed.”
“There is still much sound and fury to come before a shovel is put into the ground at Juniper Street. I believe it will be built eventually but there are going to be some fences that will need to be mended in Fenelon Falls when this is all said and done,” the former councillor said.