Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 24, 2024
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Re Do

Hilden Homes' proposed Fawcettville development sent back to the drawing board
<p>Site Context – Aerial (Source: County of Prince Edward Maps)</p>
Site Context – Aerial (Source: County of Prince Edward Maps)

Council’s Planning and Development Committee voted unanimously last week to return Hilden Homes’ plans for a new subdivision back to staff for renegotiation with the developer.

Despite vocal public opposition and many suggestions from current residents to improve the draft plan for a new subdivision in Fawcettville, the file presented to the Committee last week was virtually unchanged from that presented at the statutory public meeting in April.

There were still no sidewalks for the existing neighbourhood, despite plans to put construction traffic on Fawcett Avenue, the single road running through it. There was no tree preservation plan. And no new green space.

Perhaps most concerning, there was not even a dedicated construction road.

The County’s Manager of Planning, Michael Michaud, noted the plan to use the existing access road “won’t cut it.”

“That road will be destroyed in no time, not to mention the human factor.”

He noted four options for possible construction roads, and said it was up to the developer to find one.

As for a regular access road, Mr. Michaud noted the general rule allows up to 90 housing units with just one entrance. He suggested phasing the new subdivision, starting with about 40 new units, until a second access road has been built. 

The 40 units, added to Fawcettvillle’s existing 55, would be the limit that could be built without a new road. 

Councillors also flagged the disregard for resident concerns.

“Fawcettville residents want to know how their concerns are going to be addressed; another public meeting might be a good idea,” suggested Councillor Brad Nieman to Fotenn Planning’s Kelsey Jones, who made a deputation at the meeting on behalf of Hilden Homes.

“That is this evening,” she said flatly. “All the details have been provided. If you want further details, get in touch with Matt Coffey.”

Kelsey Jones, Fontenn Planning (Photo: Jason Parks/Gazette Staff

“I’m disappointed that none of the ideas from a very well attended public meeting have made it to the final report or been taken into consideration,” said Councillor John Hirsch. He noted no sidewalks had been planned on even one side of Fawcett Avenue to connect the new development to the Main Street, Highway 49.

 “No consideration has been given to safety.”

“The applicant is not going to pay for a sidewalk in the existing neighbourhood, but it will in the new neighbourhood,” said Ms. Jones.

While she noted that development charges could pay for new sidewalks in the existing neighbourhood, “at this time it is not our intention to provide sidewalks off site.”

“They should be paying for the cost of a sidewalk,” said Councillor Pennell. “The developer is already getting the benefit of all the existing houses, services, and road. That should be there right from the get go.”

The plan to clearcut the forested parcel of 5.5 hectares, including a grove of protected butternuts, was another major concern.

Councillor Phil St-Jean noted, “no tree preservation plan has been brought forward to the public or to Council. Is such a plan underway? The supporting study should have included one.”

“All existing trees will have to be removed to regrade the property and install underground services — all trees will be removed so there is no plan,” stated Hilden Homes’s agent.

She reiterated that one new tree would be planted per property, or 85 new trees for the entire subdivision.

As for the butternuts, “while we could promise those 16 trees could be kept they are not going to thrive — they will slowly die or we cut them down.”

As the trees are a protected species, to allow for the removal of 16 healthy mature butternuts, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment stipulated 300 new trees must be planted on another hectare of land: 150 new butternuts and 150 “companion” trees.

That site has yet to be located and it was not clear it would be in PEC.

Collective Dismay

Over 40 residents of the current neighbourhood came to the committee meeting, and 17 made public comments.

Resident after resident noted their “collective dismay,” as Katy Filmore put it.

“This is a proudly working class neighbourhood,” she said. “Full of bungalows and mature trees, with dogwalkers and kids on bikes. 

“What the developers and the traffic studies do not understand is that kids riding their bikes are enough to stop the traffic here.”

Various speakers sketched out the effect of construction traffic on Fawcettville’s single, relatively narrow road, for pedestrians, including kids and parents waiting for the school bus.

“There has been no consideration for the health, safety and welfare of the current residents,” said Steven Gunn.

Landscape architect Victoria Taylor noted that the gestures toward the Millennium Trail, which borders the site, were not sufficient. “Public green space needs to be more thoughtfully considered. We are not running or cycling the Millennium Trail to be alongside a subdivision.” She also urged more attention to the existing forest, particularly in the era of climate change.

“This draft plan seems to come from another time.”

Mayor Steve Ferguson concluded the over three hours of open discussion by noting, “many of us have attended planning meetings like this one, where people have come prepared to speak in unison about a situation unfolding in their neighbourhood, their village. All the effort put into the presentations made tonight is clear. There are many real concerns, around roads, sidewalks, and the safety of residents.

“The needs of the community need to be better addressed than they have been at this point. More work still needs to be done.”

The Committee voted unanimously for a motion, put forward by Councillor Kate MacNaughton and seconded by Councillor Brad Nieman, to return the proposal to the County’s planners for further negotiation with the developer. 

The approved motion noted the following items for consideration:

  • Updated, peer reviewed traffic study
  • Green space on the site instead of a cash-in-lieu parkland dedication
  • A tree management plan
  • A second public meeting to address community concerns
  • Safe and comprehensive public transit options, including sidewalks and a connection to the Millennium Trail
  • A phased approach to development, starting with half of the proposed total of units
  • A safe bus stop
  • A sidewalk all the way from the proposed development along Fawcett Avenue to Hwy 49
  • Construction route not to be Fawcett Avenue, but a new construction route
  • A separate Access Road to be constructed

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 26 edition of The Picton Gazette
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