IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A version of article was originally published by ThoroldToday on November 9.
Another controversial Thorold development has been given the green light by the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).
As ThoroldToday previously reported, the developers behind Milski Inc., Shane Webber and Italo Marandola, are proposing a three-storey 34-unit apartment complex at 1970 Decew Rd. — a mere stone’s throw away from the protected frog pond.
Surrounding neighbours are not pleased with the project, as they worry about the nearby protected natural areas, as well as possible traffic congestion.
At an April 2022 city council meeting, councillors decided not to grant the necessary zoning changes for the development, so the developers took their case to the OLT.
In a 22-page ruling, tribunal member Sarah Bobka explains her reasoning for allowing the 1970 Decew Rd. project to move forward.
“The Tribunal is satisfied that the concerns raised by the Participants regarding the protection of Lake Gibson and the surrounding natural environment have been considered and addressed,” she writes.
During the OLT hearing on January 16 and 17 earlier this year, the planner hired by the city, Michael Barton, explained why the project should not fit the neighbourhood.
“He highlighted that the Subject Property has not been identified as a target location for growth and intensification and that the current neighbourhood is characterized by and planned for single detached and duplex dwellings,” writes Bobka. "He further opined that a proposal featuring this type of intensification would be more appropriately located in an area such as the downtown."
Meanwhile, the planner for the developers, Daniel Romanko, highlighted “that the proposed low-rise built form is only marginally taller than the surrounding houses, is on a collector road and is near an intersection with an arterial road and bus stops.”
“In addition, Mr. Romanko testified that the proposed building will have a positive contribution to the public realm and will improve the streetscape with its urban design features,” reads Bobka's ruling.
Bobka decided in favour of the developers because “the built form has been purposefully designed to respect and reflect the height and width of the existing dwellings in the neighbourhood.”
“Being respectful of the character of the neighbourhood does not mean it has to be exactly the same," she writes.
Bobka adds that the project "is located at the periphery of the existing residential neighbourhood," "fronts onto a collector road," "will contribute to the provision of a range of housing options," and "will not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the surrounding properties."
When it comes to possible traffic congestion issues raised by neighbours, Bobka once again sides with the developers.
“The Tribunal was not presented with evidence that the proposal would create significant issues with traffic or congestion or would pose any risk to public health or safety,” she writes. “More significantly, the proposal furthers the goals and objectives of the provincial planning regime to increase density opportunities within a Settlement Area.”
And when it comes to environmental concerns, Bobka stresses that “the Conservation Authority had no objections or requirements regarding the proposal.”
With the zoning changes approved by the tribunal, Marandola and Webber can move forward with their project.
“Once again, we are pleased to see the Ontario Land Tribunal reverse the poor decision making of the City of Thorold,” writes Marandola, in a reaction to ThoroldToday. “While we can now continue with the development of this great site – we need to recognize the flaws and inefficiencies we have within our City.”
Marandola scolds Thorold City Council for holding up the project.
“We’ve elected a group of councillors who care more about forwarding their own personal and political agendas, rather than looking out for the public interest,” he writes. “As we said last time around, this entire process was a waste of taxpayers’ money that could’ve been avoided. And until the taxpayers demand more from those we’ve elected, they will continue to make irresponsible decisions that keep Thorold from moving forward.”
The Decew Rd. project still has to through the site plan process, so shovels will not be hitting the ground anytime soon.