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Silken Laumann: How easy will it be for the developer to meet the planning conditions?

Now that the Ontario Municipal Board has given approval in principle for a 28 townhouse development on protected meadowland at Silken Laumann Drive all eyes turn to the conditions – 99 in all though only a handful of these are critically important.

Just days before the OMB Hearing on 28 September 2015, Metrolinx submitted two conditions it wished to see incorporated into the so-called “Conditions of Draft Approval” (see note at bottom). I saw the conditions for the first time when I was on my feet giving my views to the Board.

The developer’s lawyer, Paul De Melo, tells the Board these are standard conditions. This is incorrect. Condition 88 stipulates that the owner shall ensure that the main walls of any dwelling units shall be at least 48 metres from the rail corridor. This is a condition specifically tailored to the circumstances of this development. Condition 89 is standard. (See below)

Townhouses on the move

In March 2013, the developer’s planner, Gary Templeton, tells Metrolinx’s rail corridor management division that the closest new townhouse to the eastern boundary of the railway lands would be 43.2 metres – well within the 48 metre cordon sanitaire now imposed.

Back in 2013, there is a prolonged to-and-fro between the Metrolinx people responsible for rail corridors and Gary Templeton on whether a safety berm between the railway and the new townhouse development is actually needed.

The issue is critically important. If Metrolinx insists on a safety berm it could drive a stake through the heart of the meadowlands development. The staff report from the Town’s own planners tells councillors on 14 September 2015 that

“if required, this safety berm would encroach into the proposed storm water management facility necessitating a redesign.”

No Redesign

A redesign is the last thing the developer wants given the tight constraints of the site.

The alternatives are to (a) push the townhouse development further away from the railway and/or (b) ensure there is a difference in grade between the railway and development by adding height to the latter. Both create their own complications.

In the event, the developer wants things settled and offers to locate the townhouses at least 48 metres from the railway. Based on that information, Metrolinx confirms a safety berm is no longer required.

At Monday’s OMB Hearing, Templeton tells Jan Seaborn, the OMB adjudicator, that the plan – which is also circulated to the participants in the meeting room - has not changed since it was filed in 2013. He is, perhaps, being economical with the actualité. The plan shows the lots - which won’t change- but not the building lines, which will.

Stormy waters

Condition 16 is worth keeping an eye on. This concerns storm water management. The Town’s consulting engineers, Burnside, told the Town on 20 August 2015 that:

“Block 6, which is currently indicated as a storm water management area, is not adequately sized to accommodate the storm water management pond and the outlet pipes and channels… Easements and agreements to construct and maintain facilities on Town owned lands will be required prior to registration of the final Plan of Subdivision.”

Maybe this is all fancy dancing on my part. The big picture is this: despite what the experts say, we are seeing some seriously bad planning.

If this is "good planning", try living there

The Town should not be facilitating this kind of development. The planners and lawyers who say it “represents good planning” wouldn’t be seen dead living there - sandwiched between a hydro corridor and a railway that is going to see a huge increase in train traffic in the near future. No way. Not in a thousand years.

Our councillors are probably already programmed to give approval to this inappropriate development, beguiled by the developer’s offer of a three metre wide asphalt trail, set out in Condition 48. They say their hands are tied – even the ward councillor, Tom Vegh, who finds it all slightly amusing.

The offers to purchase will, of course, contain warning clauses along the lines set out below in the 2013 noise and vibration study. (see Documents)

This dwelling unit has been supplied with a central air conditioning system which will allow windows and exterior doors to remain closed, thereby ensuring that the indoor sound levels are within the noise criteria of the Municipality and the Ministry of the Environment.

Caveat Emptor

But our councillors could do more. They could adopt some of the measures set out at page 43 in the Guidelines for New Developments in Proximity to the Railway. I like the sound of this:

Municipalities are encouraged to require appropriate signage/documentation at development marketing and sales centres that

  • identifies the lots or blocks that have been identified by any noise or vibration studies and which may experience noise and vibration impacts;
  • identifies the type and location of sound barriers and security fencing;
  • identifies any required warning clause(s); and contains a statement that railways can operate on a 24 hour basis, 7 days a week.

The 28 townhouses may still sell like hot cakes.

But I rather doubt it.

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To read the conditions of draft approval, click documents in the panel above left, navigate to the folder Silken Laumann and open.

Metrolinx conditions

Condition 88: The Owner shall agree that the main walls of any dwelling units on the subject lands will be located a minimum of 48 metres from the Rail Corridor.

Condition 89: The Owner shall agree in the subdivision agreement to provide the following warning clause in all offers of purchase and sale:

Warning: Metrolinx, carrying on business as GO Transit, and its assigns and successors in interest are the owners of lands within 300 metres from the land which is the subject hereof. In addition to the current use of the lands owned by Metrolinx, there may be alterations to or expansions of the rail and other facilities on such lands in the future including the possibility that GO Transit or any railway entering into an agreement with GO Transit to use the Metrolinx lands or Metrolinx and their respective assigns or successors as aforesaid may expand their operations, which expansion may affect the living environment of the residents in the vicinity, notwithstanding the inclusion of any noise and vibration attenuating measures in the design of the development and individual dwellings. Metrolinx will not be responsible for any complaints or claims arising from use of such facilities and/or operations on, over or under its lands.


 

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