To committee: June 18, 6:30pm, City Hall; to Council: July 3
Planning staff are recommending what amounts to a deadline extension in the wake of zoning approvals lapsing on the medical centre/parking structure/condo complex on Caroline/John/Elizabeth/Maria streets.
The project was approved by previous council in 2010. The Official Plan has already been changed to allow the project, but the zoning approvals have not been passed.
Certain conditions were attached to the zoning approvals, including a development agreement, payment of rezoning fees, and execution of a Section 37 community benefits agreement (negotiated for extra height and density on the project). The conditional zoning approval imposed an 18 month deadline to sign the required agreements, and was intended to ensure these agreements were in place when construction began. Staff understood that the project would proceed as soon as council gave approval.
That didn’t happen. The conditional zoning deadline came and went in January. I discovered it when I asked about the status of the project after receiving numerous inquiries from residents. I subsequently wrote about the lapse in a recent newsletter, and in City Talk.
The developer, Carriage Gate Group, Inc., has requested a new lapsing date so the project can proceed. The alternative would be to require a new rezoning application. Staff have recommended against that option, suggesting that it wouldn’t change anything – the project hasn’t changed, therefore the staff recommendation for approval would remain the same.
Council has also received confidential legal advice on this matter and I have asked staff why it is confidential and whether it can be shared with residents. Council has the prerogative to disclose legal advice, and we have done so from time to time in the past.
Read the staff report here.
Should the city bypass a rezoning application and extend the lapsing deadline? Would anything change if we went through a rezoning process? Your feedback welcome; please comment below.
My take: I’m concerned about the appearance of bending our rules here, and wonder what’s to prevent a second deadline from coming and going. Presumably, there were sound reasons to impose conditional zoning in the first place, namely to get timely commencement of the project and to ensure fulfilment of agreements and community benefits negotiated as part of original approvals. Would anything change if we went through a rezoning? That’s debatable: StaffI have already indicated their support for the project won’t change, but there are three new members of council, myself included. I would welcome a rezoning discussion to let the public speak and perhaps persuade council to a new decision. Though I and most residents who commented or attended public meetings on this development generally supported the medical/parking component, we believe the 17-storey condo encroaches and is incompatible with the adjacent neighbourhood, and unnecessary to facilitate the medical/parking centre.