Three options offered for public comment
BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
A public information session about a potential road extension for a new Fonthill development was held at Fire Hall #1 last Wednesday evening. The meeting was organized by Upper Canada Consultants (UCC), the firm who produced the three possible plans, and attended by some 20 local residents.
The proposed development is in the Kunda Park neighbourhood, near Stella and John Streets, and adjacent to Glynn A. Green Elementary School.
Currently, John Street runs east-west and dead-ends at Beechwood Crescent. In UCC’s first option, the street, storm water sewer, and water main would be extended to the east, and to the north, linking the south side of the development to the west side. In option two, only the sewer and water main would be extended into the development.
“Number three is our ‘do-nothing’ option,” said UCC engineer Stan Pijl, referring to the option in which the sewer and water main come entirely from the west exit to the development, off Stella Street.
Adam Keane, the other UCC engineer at the meeting, explained the process to a group of residents huddled around one of the sketches.
“There is a provincially significant wetland in the area owned by the developer,” Keane said. “No building will occur on it, but part of this proposed road in Option A, and the pipes in Option B, would cut through a portion of the wetland.”
Keane said that under the Planning Act, no building of any kind is allowed on wetlands. But the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment allows for certain types of construction on wetlands, including roads, sewers, and streetlights.
Of the three options, Pijl said that the first is the preferred one, since it will allow for two entrances to the new neighbourhood. However, he said that the second would be less disruptive than the first to the wetland, since pipes could be installed and then covered with sod. Pijl also explained that the present storm sewer dead-ends at the bottom of John Street, meaning that it often overflows after heavy rains, draining more water into the wetlands.
“The extension of the sewer would allow for proper circulation,” he said.
UCC and the developer, Sterling Realty, are more than halfway through the process, and the meeting last Wednesday was part of mandatory public consultation. Keane said that the end is approaching, though advised that residents still have until February 2 to submit comments, and that even after that, any member of the public could launch an appeal.
“The Minister would then have broad authority to force us to re-do parts of this study process, or do the whole thing over again,” he said.
Some residents in attendance mentioned the wetlands as a concern, though most were preoccupied by the increase in traffic that the new development will likely bring.
John DeLisio, the president of Sterling Realty, assured residents that this won’t be a major issue.
“[If Option A is chosen] there are three possible exits,” he said.
Shelly Marr-Mouck, who lives on Stella, asked DeLisio about the density of the proposed development.
“It’ll be less dense than the other development that’s happening in East Fonthill,” said DeLisio, saying that his firm would be bringing forward a plan of the actual development within two to three months. DeLisio added that he hoped that building would begin within the next year or two.
Marr-Mouck was seemingly realistic about the likelihood of the development, but said that she wanted see the upsides of the road extension.
“What I’d really like to see is the road going all the way out to Port Robinson,” she said to DeLisio. “Because in the winter, John Street is too hard to drive uphill.”
Marr-Mouck said that the narrowness and ditches on Merritt Street make it uncomfortable to drive on in the winter.
“I put a lot of time into looking into going to Port Robinson,” said DeLisio. “The school board wouldn’t sell me the two acres of land—that’s a whole bureaucracy, and it’s not going to happen.”
DeLisio said also that opening up the subdivision to Port Robinson could have invited drivers eager to avoid the stoplight at Port Robinson and Pelham Street, meaning that it could have increased traffic in the neighbourhood.
“We’ll just have to salt the road better on John Street,” he said.
This area of the Kunda Park development was to have originally been developed more than 30 years ago, a fact noted by Bill and Muriel Heska, who have long lived in Pelham.
“The Kunda family owned all the land—that’s why you have the street names of John, Stella, and Vera. They were all Kundas,” said Muriel. “The original site plan for the development is still on a sign. It’s faded, but you can still see it, more than 30 years later.”
Keane speculated that market forces made the development unpalatable at the time, and the property has laid dormant ever since.
“You can see here on our map the boundary of the original development area,” he said. “It was done before the wetland was designated, so it was actually bigger than the area that will be developed now.”
Keane noted that while the area was bigger then, houses are more densely built now, so the smaller development area will not necessarily result in fewer new homes.
DeLisio’s company has been planing to build on the property for some time, though visible progress has been relatively slow, at least until now. One cause for delay was the discovery of a Common Five-Lined skink near the property some years ago. The skink is a small, endangered lizard, and the discovery of one prompted further study to determine whether the land was a skink habitat.
DeLisio declined to comment about the initial discovery of the skink, though he asserted that no other skinks had been found during the study period.
In October, the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Michelle Karam said that surveys had not confirmed the presence of the Five-Lined skink, and that the the MNR does not “consider this area Common Five-Lined skink habitat.”
Following this clearance from the MNR, DeLisio began clearing trees from the property.
When speaking to the consultants present, Marr-Mouck said that for those whose homes back on to the proposed development, the planned construction is upsetting.
“It’s a topic you avoid during backyard barbecues in the summer,” she said. “It’s the NIMBYism at play.”
Marr-Mouck said that she was realistic about the prospect of homes being built, that the developer has a right to build on his own property. She wanted assurances that the wetland will be preserved, and was placated when DeLisio said that he hopes to transfer it to the Town.
Acknowledging it ironic, considering her assessment of opposition to the development, Marr-Mouck said that she would be pleased if the development brought something that would benefit her.
“For instance, will there be a pedestrian connection to the Steve Bauer trail?” she asked.
“Yes,” said DeLisio. “There will be.”