Amid 'stabs and jabs' from residents, council delays zoning decision

Residents immediately outside a 120-metre radius of a proposed five-storey development in Penetanguishene were upset recently that town staff followed provincial rules and the will of council.

Packed into town hall for the recent council and committee of the whole meeting, residents were able to express their disappointment with the way they were, or weren’t in this case, notified about potential housing at 200 Fox St and 2 Hope St., known as the former Bay Moorings Marina location on Penetanguishene’s waterfront.

A zoning bylaw amendment application for a portion of the Champlain Shores subdivision was brought to council last month as a report from staff, looking to rezone the land from open space to residential, allowing for two 44-unit buildings to be developed on the property. The amendment included a request to add a fifth four-metre storey to the proposed four-storey buildings, as well as additional parking.

It was a development that had been proposed to council in August 2019, but which carried resident concerns regarding a maximum four-storey height at that time.

The provincial Planning Act requires municipalities to give property owners within 120 metres of a subject site a minimum of 20 days notification indicating a public meeting or notice.

Penetanguishene staff complied feedback in August through publications in newsprint and on the official town channels, through reports, memos, and other presentations, continuing until October; the town received 57 public comments on the application.

At the meeting, open and scheduled deputations were given from residents located primarily in the two-storey Bay Moorings Boulevard subdivision across the street, as well as neighbouring Fox St. homes.

“Residents in the immediate area were not properly notified of the proposed amendments,” said Brig Kennair during his presentation. “If you approve this zoning amendment tonight, you’re accepting the fact it had no public input except for this evening.”

He showed a picture of a transport truck parked in front of a town-posted notification on the property; upset residents scoffed in chambers when Kennair said the town hiding the notice wasn’t deliberate, until he added that the truck owner lived in the subdivision.

Others speaking at the podium called the notification process “flawed”, a participant stating how he “abhorred” the extra height request, as well as one resident using harsher language about his frustration to the applause of the crowd.

Two items came up on the agenda, which residents unaccustomed to council proceedings seemed confused by; members of council patiently explained the procedures as the night went along. The first issue addressed was the planning and community development memo that explained how the notification process was completed with due diligence in detail.

Mayor Doug Rawson addressed the crowd that thought council approval of the memo was a decision on the fate of the Champlain Shores zoning bylaw amendment, which would be done later in the meeting.

“This decision is solely a council decision,” Rawson stated. “I just wish that in the comments that you support or don’t support – this isn’t staff. Staff is following policy that this council has enacted, whether it’s a notification or other.

“They are not the bearer of bad news; that solely sits with this council. I ask for respect and decorum with our staff, please,” he added.

The memo on notification was passed by council, but that approval of procedure continued to cause discussion in the gallery.

Later in the meeting at the section for the October committee of the whole approvals, with the attendees becoming increasingly restless through other mundane town procedures, Coun. George Vadeboncoeur proposed that the rezoning of Champlain Shores be sent back to the planning and development services section so that staff could address the public’s concerns.

His suggestion prompted CAO Jeff Lees to inform council and the public that by delaying a decision, a $2,500 application fee refund could come at the town’s expense; even later and the full $5,000 would be refunded.

Council approved delaying the decision on the zoning application, and once that was explained to the crowd the chambers fully emptied for the committee of the whole in the second half.

Rawson later asked for a re-examination of the town’s notification policy by staff, citing the earlier exhibition by residents. He noted: “...that people are making stabs and jabs at staff, but they don’t understand the policy.”

The staff memo regarding new public comments and policy notifications on the Champlain Shores subdivision zoning bylaw amendment application can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,