Letter to the Advertiser

Wellington Advertiser

Attention: Chris Daponte (Editor)

Heading: Draft plan approval for large subdivision in Elora

In an article in the Wellington Advertiser on September 13, 2018 Mayor Linton commented that he is very happy with the outcome of the LPAT (Land Planning Appeal Tribunal, formerly the Ontario Municipal Board) decision on the Haylock and Youngblood site on South River Road. He referred to a huge wooded area in the center of the development and a huge stormwater management pond in a “park-like” setting as examples of a good outcome. In fact, the amount of green space on the Haylock and Youngblood site is only slightly more than the legal minimum for this site. And the LPAT report imposes no requirement on the developers to create a “park-like” setting for the stormwater pond.

Smart Growth Elora+Fergus (SGE+F) is an incorporated group of citizens formed early in 2015 in response to concerns about the plans for the Haylock and Youngblood site. Its purpose was to help the Municipality negotiate improvements to the developers’ original plans. With the support of a professional planner SGE+F focused on three concerns of public interest - water safety, traffic risks, and the application of modern design principles. “Density”, or the number of housing units planned for this site, was a major factor in all of these concerns. A representative for one of the developers got SGE+F’s attention when he said “the more units we build the more money we make”.

For two and half years SGE+F’s leaders met Mayor Linton and CAO Andy Goldie more than twenty times to review the group’s concerns and propose remedies. Each time the Mayor and Andy Goldie assured SGE+F that their interests were “aligned” with those of the citizens’ group.

SGE+F did not participate in the mediation process late last year because, in its judgment, the list of issues was far too long to be resolved in the few days scheduled for it, especially since the developers had demonstrated little or no intent to change their plans in the preceding two years. Nonetheless, the mediation was a partial success. A revised plan arising from it included several of the improvements SGE+F had proposed to the Municipality in 2016 and 2017. However, it left several major issues of public interest unresolved.

Following mediation, the Municipality terminated discussions with SGE+F and reached a settlement agreement with the developers. This agreement did not satisfy SGE+F for two reasons. First, too many decisions important to the public interest were absent. This meant they would get resolved “later in the process” in forums that do not include public consultation. Second, the settlement agreement specified up to 821 housing units on this site, more than the developers’ original plan for 767 units and more than double the 404 units recommended in the Municipality’s Growth Management Strategy. Higher density increases the risks to water safety, and traffic congestion and reduces the opportunity for a modern, neighborhood style of subdivision design. Consequently, SGE+F continued its search for improvements in the LPAT hearing with the support of its lawyer and five expert witnesses.

Mayor Linton was disappointed that SGE+F did not participate in the mediation. SGE+F is disappointed that the Municipality completely missed the opportunity to implement its own standards as set out in the Growth Management Strategy and its other strategic plans. SGE+F is also disappointed that it was excluded from all discussions after mediation when Mayor Linton and Andy Goldie made their deal with the developers.

The LPAT decision on these applications is not yet final. It is subject to the submission of a revised plan that must include several design changes proposed by Smart Growth Elora+Fergus in the LPAT hearing. SGE+F has requested copies of these plans and has discussed with its lawyer the group’s options for seeking further improvements to this subdivision design.

Rick Cooper
Norman Lord

Smart Growth Elora+Fergus