Council rejects commercial rezoning request
Hawkesbury town council has decided not to approve a rezoning request from a local developer that would allow him to go ahead with a small-scale commercial development project on property bordering Chenail Boulevard. The question now is whether or not Gilles Gauthier will appeal council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Council voted 5-2 in a registered vote during its Oct. 30 session to accept the recommendation of Town Planner Manon Belle-Isle to refuse the rezoning request. Councillors Michel Thibodeau and Daniel Lalonde voted to reject the recommendation and support the rezoning request.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Gauthier during a Tuesday morning phone interview. “I did speak individually to every member of the council (prior to vote) and they (council) did not seem to support it.”
The main objection in Belle-Isle’s final report to council was that Gauthier’s plan to include a gas service station as one of four businesses proposed for the development was not suitable for current downtown development policy goals to “use the existing downtown core, to allow people to live, work and play in the downtown core.”
The rezoning request has been a focus of controversy for the past year. The site is located on the river side of Chenail Boulevard and is already zoned as Community Core Commercial District (CCCD). Gauthier’s request would have redesignated it as Site-Specific Community Core Commercial (SSCCC), which would allow development of a gas station for sales of gasoline, oil and similar products but no mechanical repair work, along with a small grocery store, a car wash, and a small restaurant or fast-food outlet.
Chenail Boulevard is a provincial municipal connector route to the Long Sault Bridge, allowing heavy trucks and commuter traffic to bypass Main Street and the main part of the downtown core on their way to and from
Québec. Gauthier owns the property through his company, Gestions Vitrico Ltd. The rezoning request first came before council in March through Gauthier and an agent for an outside investor interested in buying the site for the particular type of development that an SSCCC zoning would allow.
The request then became a source of controversy with homeowners in a residential neighbourhood adjacent to the property opposing the request. The rezoning application was later dropped after the outside investor pulled out of the arrangement. Gauthier resubmitted the request on July 31 2017 with the goal of still having the site zoned for that particular type of development. Neighbourhood residents again opposed the request and council referred the matter for planning department review.
In her report, Belle-Isle noted that the rezoning request does meet provincial standards for commercial planning and also meets the guidelines of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell’s own Official Plan for commercial zoning within the Hawkesbury area. There is also a supporting document for the development proposal from an Ottawa consultant retained by Gauthier, which also notes that any rezoning approval would still require the developer to accept a site plan for the project and that council can attach conditions to the site plan to deal with neighbourhood concerns about noise, traffic, and viewscape.
Gauthier can appeal council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). He has a three-week period starting from Oct. 31 to file an appeal and said he plans to first talk with his own consultant and clients who are interested in acquiring the property if it is rezoned.
“I have not decided yet,” Gauthier said, regarding an OMB appeal. “But it is my intention to do so.”
Le boulevard Chenail, à Hawkesbury, a été le théâtre d’une bagarre entre les propriétaires du quartier riverain de la rue et un promoteur local qui voulait un rezonage commercial de sa propriété pour permettre un projet de développement à petite échelle. Le conseil a maintenant rejeté la demande de rezonage, mais le promoteur a la possibilité d’en appeler de la décision du conseil auprès de la Commission des affaires municipales de l’Ontario.