Development in Brookswood-Fernridge will move ahead under an updated 2017 plan.
Council passed the community plan, with amendments, by a 7-2 vote on Monday night (Oct. 23), with Councillors Kim Richter and Petrina Arnason opposed.
This vote follows months of debate — both in council chambers and in the community — over how to proceed. The 2017 plan, which updates the older 1987 document, originally failed third reading by a 5-4 vote in July, when council made 15 amendments over two days of meetings. Mayor Jack Froese then called a vote for reconsideration, and the plan was sent to public hearing for a second time on Sept. 12.
There, close to 500 community members attended, with 60 verbal submission made from 58 different people.
But it wasn’t just council who was divided. Between the two public hearings in September and June, the Township received a total of 250 written submission and 113 verbal submissions, with 87 people taking a definitive position in favour of the 2017 plan, and 87 outright against it.
In the document passed by council Monday night there were additional amendments made, with the most significant being the adoption of about 70 per cent of the language changes recommended by the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Association. During the September public hearing, a representative told council that the association spent over six hours consulting with Township staff to make some of the sections “less ambiguous” by replacing many “shoulds” with “shalls.”
Further changes to the plan include revising the cut-off date for applications considered under the 1987 plan from May 16 to Oct. 23 (as of Monday night’s meeting, the Township had received 14 development applications in the Brookswood-Fernridge area), and updating language under “6.2 watercourses” to “watercourses, water bodies and environmentally sensitive areas.”
Along with the community plan, a subsequent Brookswood-Fernridge tree protection bylaw was passed to regulate, prohibit and impose requirements on tree clear-cutting prior to development in the undeveloped areas.
Council also voted in favour of allocating $500,000 to begin the neighbourhood planning process for three of the four areas — Booth, Rinn and Fernridge — in 2018.
In her closing comments, Coun. Richter said she does not believe that every community in the Township needs to be “recreated.” In her opinion, the 2017 plan does not protect “the DNA” of the Brookswood that currently exists.
Coun. Arnason said that the vote is a “defining moment after a very intensive process” that involved hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work. She believes the community plan should be “very forward thinking,” with sustainability at the forefront.
“To me, the (1987) plan is a Model T, and the draft 2017 plan is a Tesla. But it seems what I want is a spaceship,” she said.
When the first vote took place in July, Coun. Angie Quaale said that council had “gone too far too fast with changes,” prompting her to vote in opposition. But the amended plan sitting before them in October is one that she can support.
Coun. Michelle Sparrow echoed Quaale’s comments, and said that hearing from the public a second time gave her assurance. She admitted that “this will never be 100 per cent perfect,” but through the neighbourhood plans, the vagueness that some community members are concerned with can be dealt with.
Coun. David Davis commented that no matter what plan they proceed with, he hopes future councils will abide by it, and not allow developments to be upzoned as they have in Willoughby.
Mayor Jack Froese thanked staff, council and the community for all of their input and for being “very patient.”
“We are in the business of building complete communities … we need to look to the future, not to the past,” he said.
Coun. Charlie Fox said that his wife will be pleased a decision is being made.
“Finally, I might get a good night’s sleep,” he said.