Council passes 168 downtown units despite their own questions

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submitted by Nadia Gray

This is a letter to my fellow North Grenville residents regarding the management of change to our community in light of actions by the Ontario government and by our local Council since the election held in October 2022. There is a seeming rush to initiate projects to meet priorities that are not transparently connected to enhancing the future quality of life for the community of Kemptville? Projects such as the placing of 168 housing units downtown in a space originally agreed for 20 units. 

Our Mayor, Council, our MPP and Premier have been re-elected as recently as October 2022. A little over a mere two months ago. At election time, neither level unveiled intentions for significant changes, like Bill 23, in their approach to managing their housing and development portfolios. On our local level, the option being presented for downtown development in Kemptville was unveiled at a public meeting held on December 14, increasing the density to 168 units. This is an 8-fold increase from the 20 units originally approved. Is the approved density of benefit to the quality of life of the future residents who urgently need affordable housing?

Compromise with developers who come to this community, surely is possible? But compromise takes a give and take for both sides, doesn’t it? Isn’t it fair to keep the community somewhat resembling its roots? I became aware from Kemptville Advance and North Grenville Times news articles that of the 168 units approved, only 15% are proposed to be “AFFORDABLE” as defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation definition, for a ten year period.

After reading the articles, the concerns of residents seemed substantive. Should they have been addressed by Council in a second public meeting before a vote on this development was taken? During the public meeting, Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan pointed out “the inconsistency with the municipality’s target for affordable housing, which is 25 per cent.” And Mayor Peckford challenged the developer on the assertion of “affordable” housing, arguing that there are different definitions of “affordable”, and that even the lowest cost units of the proposed development would not be affordable to those who truly need subsidized housing in the current housing market. It seems two Council members had important questions that warranted more information and discussion? What about the question: “What would be required if there are any upgrades within the infrastructure that needs to be upgraded? Who would be covering the costs?” The answer from North Grenville Director of Planning and Development was, “Infrastructure needs will be assessed through the site plan control process… Any upgrades will be at the cost of the developer”.

Weren’t plans presented for the infrastructure in the request for this project? Aren’t infrastructural requirements basic to designing and costing a housing project? Would the developers and the Municipality undertake a project for 168 units without studies to have very accurate information, including costs, before increasing a project from 20 to 168 units?

What decision did Council make to deal with rezoning the property located at 215 Reuben Crescent? The answer was reported in both papers. In the Kemptville Advance: “Both the rezoning of the property and OP amendment were subsequently passed by council with residents in attendance visibly upset by the decision.” In the NGTimes: “A spokesperson for the Municipality confirmed that Council has adopted an amendment to the Official Plan to allow for an increase in residential density for the property at 215 Reuben, as well as a Zoning By-law Amendment to rezone the property from Institutional to Residential Fourth Density – Exception – Holding. The Official Plan Amendment requires approval from the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and the developer will be required to go through site plan control, to satisfy the holding zones that were implemented through the Zoning By-law Amendment.”

The North Grenville Mayor is now the Warden of our county. Will she be at the meeting for site plan control? Recently, speaking after her appointment as Warden she said: “I give you my commitment today that I will bring my absolute best to the table as your Warden, and work to create the conditions for robust and respectful dialogue, deliberation, and decision making, that is always responsive and responsible to the people we were elected to serve,” added Mayor Peckford. What do these words mean in light of the 168 unit approval?

Why did the Mayor pass such a project for downtown Kemptville? People from other places are looking to relocate to a less pressure loaded and affordable environment. There must be a balance that can be offered by development that is not a carbon copy of crowded neighbourhoods elsewhere?

Mine is not a negative opinion to new development in North Grenville. It is instead a plea for imagination and rigorous planning techniques, and also for a consideration of the appropriate scope/scale, and the aesthetics and quality of life implications, regardless of whether something is for low cost housing or other pocketbook possibilities.

Consider how similar the approach by this re-elected Mayor and Council is to how they handled communication with residents concerning the Prison Project? Also like this project, having big implications for the quality of life in North Greenville’s future.

Development, if well conceptualized, can be a boon. If it is haphazard, it can detract or diminish from the quality of life experienced in a community. If politicians promise caring and listening to constituents, then perhaps they should follow through with effective actions that uphold their words. If they do not, taxpayers and voters become a source of tax revenue only.

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