Development plan provides test for council candidates in east-end ward
Developer denies pushing project while Mitic away
Municipal election candidates in an east-end ward are trying to show their planning chops on an application that proposes to change a community design plan while the local councillor is on leave from city hall.
The east urban community design plan calls for a low-density residential development on the forested land at 2983 Navan Rd. Now, Taggart Realty Management wants the city to reclassify the land as commercial to allow a retail centre with a grocery store, two restaurants, a drive-thru restaurant, a gas station with car wash and other stores.
The councillor for Innes ward, Jody Mitic, is on leave, so there’s no ward-elected representative watching the file. Council in June granted Mitic the leave of absence for an unspecified period after he presented medical documentation to the clerk.
Mitic’s office is still handling constituency matters and other east-end councillors — Stephen Blais, Bob Monette and Tim Tierney — have been tasked to handle administrative issues for the ward.
The preliminary timeline for Taggart’s application has the planning committee making a decision on Oct. 23, the day after the municipal election. The next Innes ward councillor won’t take office until the four-year term begins on Dec. 1.
Paul Bolt, president of the nearby Chapel Hill South Community Association, is worried the developer is trying to rush the application while there’s a political vacuum at city hall. Bolt said Mitic’s staff have done a good job of quickly responding to messages, but he wonders if concerns from the community on planning files are receiving the necessary consideration by decision-makers.
“This seems to be pushed through before any discussion with any leader to guide this through,” Bolt said. He said the planning application should be pushed ahead to the next term of council.
Yasmine Fathers, president of Bradley Estates Community Association, said residents are generally pleased about the potential of having a retail area that’s accessible by foot. The community hopes to see public consultation so residents have input on the design, she said.
Fathers and Bolt said development files like Taggart’s underscore the importance of planning the western extension of Brian Coburn Boulevard to properly manage traffic.
Since development applications are a key part of councillors’ advocacy work at city hall, council hopefuls are trying to engage the community on the file while Mitic is away.
Four candidates are fighting to succeed Mitic, who’s not seeking re-election: Laura Dudas, Donna Leith- Gudbranson, Tammy Lynch and François Trépanier.
Dudas said voters are telling her the proposed development would be beneficial since it would be a closer retail option than driving to Innes Road. Residents want to make sure the retail offerings reflect the needs of the community, Dudas said.
She doesn’t think the application needs to be pushed to the next term of council.
“We as candidates can play a role in having the residents’ voices heard,” Dudas said. “The residents have been waiting for a very long time to have access to amenities within a short distance from their homes.
“I think it would be to their detriment if we were to hold up the process even more so.”
Donna Leith- Gudbranson said her first instinct was to be concerned about the trees and impacts to the immediate neighbours, but as she talked to residents in Chapel Hill South and Bradley Estates, she learned they’re generally excited for local retailers and restaurants.
However, feeling like the application was being rushed when the local councillor is on leave, Leith Gudbranson said she talked to Taggart about holding a public consultation and contacted Tierney and Coun. Jan Harder, the planning chair, about the possibility of pushing the political decision until December.
“I just went into action and called the people that I know,” Leith- Gudbranson said.
Lynch said she also reached out to Taggart this week.
“I know a big issue residents have is that trees are so important,” Lynch said. “They really want to see a preservation of trees, especially around the proposed development.”
Residents also want good pedestrian and cycling connectivity with a future rapid-transit stop and park and ride on Brian Cobourn Boulevard, Lynch said.
Trépanier is baffled that the planning application would be on track to go through council before the election. He believes residents are split on the retail proposal, noting as red flags the loss of trees and the development’s proximity to homes on Navan and Pagé roads.
“I’m not convinced it’s a good idea,” Trépanier said.
Jeff Parkes, vice-president of planning and development for Taggart, said the company wanted to have an information session before the summer, but it fell through when Mitic went on leave. Taggart now wants to have the information session before the end of September, or at least sometime in the fall. The company isn’t trying to push through a development application while the councillor is away, he said.
“We recognize the appearance is not the way we intended,” Parkes said.
Taggart is willing to have the planning application considered after the next council takes office, he said.
Taggart Realty Management wants to build a retail centre in a forested area on Navan Road that was earmarked for future residential development.