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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Alberton approves zoning criteria for group homes

By Peggy Revell Staff writer Group homes will be permitted in both rural and rural-residential zoned areas of Albertonif they meet certain criterianow that the municipalitys council has approved changes to zoning bylaw following a June 23 public meeting. We considered this real thoroughly over the last six months or so, and this we feel is going to benefit the municipality 100 percent more than it has in the past, said Alberton reeve Mike Hammond during the public meeting held prior to council approving amendments to zoning by-law #200239 which extended group homes as a permitted use in the rural residential and rural zones in the townshipif certain criteria is met. The amendments came almost a year after the township began reviewing its zoning bylaw pertaining to group homes after Weechiit-te-win Family Services sought to relocate its Training and Learning Centre (TLC) there from Watten Township. Under the updated bylaw, council has actually increased the amount of possible land where a group home would be allowed from just rural-residential to rural zoned areas as well, noted Reeve Hammond. But other changes to the bylaw include such amendments as adding a restriction that the lot size must meet the minimum regulations for the applicable zone, and requiring a site plan control to ensure that the size, scale appearance of the facility is compatible and integrates seamlessly with the existing residential structures and uses. As well, use of land for a group home is now permitted only where it can be demonstrated that it can be undertaken without any adverse long-term impact to the environment, neighbouring properties, or the rural character of the neighbourhood. Another amendment included a policy whereby a group home could use land where it can be demonstrated that there is a need for same to be established in the Township in order to serve present and future residents of the regional market area, as same defined in and governed by the Provincial Policy Statement, in which the Township is located. Under the newly amended bylaw, the definition of a crisis centre, dwelling unit, and group home has also been further clarified. Setbacks from the natural gas transmission pipelines for rural, rural residential, business park industrial and open space zones were also amended, as per the request of the gas companies The issue of land use and group homes first arose last summer when an Alberton resident requested a zoning bylaw amendment that would have seen a portion of their land located along Highway 11/71 re-zoned from business park to institutional, so Weechi-it-te-win could purchase the property for the TLCs new site. Alberton council eventually voted down the re-zoning request in August, reasoning that the proposed use of the land did not sufficiently conform to the townships official plan and the intentions behind the business park zoning currently in place there. Council also noted at the time there was a clear mandate from the constituents [that were present at public meetings] that a significant portion of Alberton residents did not want a group home of any kind in their township. But it was also observed that under the existing zoning bylaw, a group home could be established in land zoned as Rural Residential without council having a say in the matter. So council passed a resolution and interim control bylaw that prevented the establishment or operation of a group home on any land designated as Rural Residentialwhich would be in effect for a yearwhile they inEmployee price discount amount based on MSRP of $55,190 (excluding $1,350 license, insurance, registration, fees associated with filing at movable property registry/PPSA administration fees, duties and taxes). Dealers are free to set individual prices. Any actual savings under the Employee Pricing Event program will vary depending on your dealers prior selling prices. Employee price discount is available on the purchase/ finance of an eligible new or demonstrator 2010/2011 MY Chevrolet/Buick/GMC/Cadillac or 2010 MY Pontiac/Hummer vehicle delivered between 6/23/10 and 8/31/10 at participating dealers in Canada. 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Its not an unreasonable control thats being enactedand you can make anything fit seamlessly. Mike Ford
vestigated whether or not the group home use can be legally eliminated from the zoning bylaw and whether the most appropriate means of resolving issues with the group home use is to eliminate it as a permitted use or to modify and/ or impose conditions related to the use, as well as several other planning and legal issues related to the same. The bylaw zoning changes approved at the June 23 meeting came as a result of the planning report put together over the past year. Please be aware that this matter concerns land use planning only and your comments must be limited to land use only, warned Reeve Hammond as the public meeting got underway. The Ministry of Municipality Affairs and Housing as well as case law and Ontario Municipal court decisions have made it clear that people zoning is illegalso comments concerning who may use property will not be allowed and will be disregarded by council, he added. Of the dozen who were in attendance, Alberton resident Dorothy Friesen was the only one to speak up with any concerns about the proposed amendments. Friesen and her late husband, Melvin Stoltzfus, had appealed the townships interim control bylaw to the Ontario Municipal Board, arguing that it ha[d] the effect of excluding certain institutions (referred to generically as group homes) from operating in the Township, was exclusive, and that the township must strive to be more inclusive and expand and broaden its thinking in terms of business opportunities, as outlined in the May decision by Justice of the Peace Seaborn. Their appeal was ultimately dismissed, as there are no planning expertise that sets out valid land use planning grounds to support the appeal, as currently constituted. Justice of the Peace also urge[d] the Township to consider carefully the objections and submissions of Ms. Friesen and the participants as their concerns are real. Did you take into account the concerns that the OMB said were valid and real, and if you did, how are those concerns addressed in the bylaw, Friesen asked council at the public meeting. Did you intend in this bylaw to show your willingness to work, and provide a welcoming committee, is that part of the concern when you put the bylaw together? Friesen also asked council how they would ensure that the criteria under the proposed site control plan would not be applied prejudicially. Because the criteria is actually vague and it could be subject to widely different interpretations and [possible] prejudices, she said, questioning how council will decide on if a facility integrate seamlessly with existing structures and uses in the neighbourhood. Decisions will be based on provincial guidelines and policies, said Reeve Hammond in response to this question. If it looks like what the rest of the neighbourhood does, its seamless, added Coun. Mike Ford about his interpretation. But if a group home or a crisis centre were to go up and the next thing you know theres a 10 foot concrete wall for security? Thats not seamless. Ideallyan effective group

homeit blends in with its surroundings, he said, pointing to the various assisted living homes throughout Fort Frances which all fit in with their settings. Three-storey buildings which obstruct peoples views is another example of how a building may not blend in with the surrounding area, he said. Theres no way in my opinion that [seamlessly] could be used to exclude somebody, Ford reasoned. Because when youre doing the site planif you tell them its not seamless well they can go back to their architect, and say this is the type of building we want, it has to blend in with where its at. Its not an unreasonable control thats being enactedand you can make anything fit seamlessly, he said, adding that group homes are all about reintegration into communities. Friesen also questioned Council about the part of the bylaw amendment concerning the long term impact on the environment, neighbouring property and rural character of the neighbourhood, and how an institution would demonstrate that there would be no adverse long term impact to [councils] satisfaction. Septic fields were one of the examples of evaluating the adverse long-term impact, said Coun. Ford, when considering the number of residents who would be living at a location. Can the watershed in the area accommodate a septic field of that size? The septic field has to be effective enough not to contaminate other ground water supplies, he said, listing other possible factors such as the water table, waste disposal, or if construction would significantly affect flora or fauna habitat. As for rural character, Coun. Ford described that as basically anything that doesnt look like a city, pointing to how for him, this includes larger lot sizes and greenery.

Chances are, in Alberton, in my foreseeable future of being alive, having curbed sidewalks, sewer and water? I cannot really see that happening. And thats part of the rural character, he said, pointing to how residents have said that part of what they like about Alberton is that they have space to be them. The draft bylaw was drafted slightly before the decision from the OMB came out, Coun. Ford also stated, So the OMBs decision weighed nothing on us on how we drafted this. Council would not answer whether or not under the new bylaw Weechi-it-te-win would be allowed to set up the TLC in Alberton, saying any decision would depend on the review of a submitted site plan. We cant do what ifsits unrealistic to make a decision on a what-ifits a variable, stressed Coun. Ford. Thats where having a site plan, by having a site plan into this amendment, it addresses What ifs. We are making it easier for future people sitting around this table to make it easier for decisions for when stuff like this does come up, so we dont have the fiasco that we had last time, we dont have all this animosity, he said. Its in black and white, we follow our policies and procedures, thats the way it is. We have put significant time and effort in to reviewing our zoning changes. We have what we feel is fair to all parties involved, and it takes the you and me out of this, its a black and white document. This is what we follow. We all read it, this is what we follow. Its a map, its a plan. It takes the variables out of it. In my personal opinion, I feel very confident with the document that we the council have created, I feel that it will be an excellent tool for the future of this township, he stressed.


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