The Hamilton Spectator
‘We got screwed by city’ on towers in Stoney Creek , opponent says
Proposed settlement averts OLT hearing on disputed zoning variances
A ratepayers’ association opposing a controversial plan for three skyscrapers near the lakeshore in Stoney Creek says it feels “sandbagged” by an agreement in principle that settles the city’s own dispute with the developer.
“We think we basically got screwed by the city,” Viv Saunders of the Lakewood Beach Community Council said after highlights of the proposed deal were presented to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) on Feb. 3.
The proposed settlement cancelled five days of OLT hearings that were scheduled to begin on Jan. 30 to consider New Horizon’s Dec. 20, 2021, appeal of the city’s refusal to approve seven minor zoning variances.
Saunders said she only learned of the deal’s existence four days earlier, even though her council had been granted party status and the city had been directed to work with her.
A fourth version of New Horizon Development Group’s plan for a two-hectare vacant property at 310 Frances Ave. calls for condominium towers of 34, 44 and 37 storeys — although the site’s zoning doesn’t set a height limit.
“I am dumbfounded,” Saunders said, because witness statements submitted to the tribunal by a city planner and outside traffic engineer contracted by the city “were adamant” the seven zoning variances didn’t meet the test of being minor.
“There was no way that we would have had any indicator that they were going to settle on something that is more intrusive than (New Horizon) originally applied for.”
New Horizon lawyer David Bronskill told OLT vice-chair Steven Cooke at the Feb. 3 session that Saunders hadn’t been provided all of the settlement’s details because of how it evolved rather because of any intentional slight.
Cooke agreed to his request for a single hearing date, scheduled for May 25, to allow for “opinion evidence” supporting the settlement and cross-examination by the community council.
“In fairness, they should have the opportunity to digest where we’re at with the settlement before being put on the spot,” Bronskill said, adding that the extra time will allow more precise wording on the settlement.
New Horizon planning consultant Sarah Knoll told the online session the deal consolidates the zoning variances into four groupings: location of buildings, amenity areas for residential units, landscaped open space and parking.
She said the initial phase will build a 34-story tower by the southern part of the property as part of an overall requirement for a minimum of 585 residential units.
As outlined by Knoll, the agreement increases landscaped space to a minimum 45 per cent from an initial 36 per cent — still below a bylaw requirement of 50 per cent — by including planting strips, stairs and windscreens.
Amenity space per unit is boosted to 17 square metres from an initial 9.8 — also below the 18 required for one-bedroom units and 53 for two-bedroom ones — by including terraces and balconies, normally excluded.
Parking will be provided at 1.25 spaces per unit for the initial 34-story tower and 1.1 spots for the other two buildings — all below a required 1.5.
Knoll said the plan also sets aside space for a five-storey parking garage if parking demand is greater than the 1.1 spots per unit in subsequent phases.
If not, the area will add to the open space.
Coun. Jeff Beattie, who represents the area, said he was left out of the loop on the settlement and was still awaiting details from staff.