This week Council held a Public Planning meeting to discuss alignment of the zoning bylaw with our Official Plan, and the larger issue of zoning and stable neighbourhoods. During the meeting, Council heard not only residents’ thoughts when it comes to stable neighbourhoods, but Council members themselves also discussed how we as a community can move forward with the consideration of changes to the zoning within stable neighbourhoods. It was a very interesting discussion and it certainly did stir up some “passionate” back and forth. While Councillor Gaertner and Mayor Dawe did get into a bit of a heated debate that perhaps could have been dealt with in a more calm or professional manner by the Chair… I think that strong opinions on this topic are to be expected.
My thoughts have always been clear when it comes to stable neighbourhoods. I believe that we as a Council and Town need to make changes to our zoning bylaw in order to align our zoning with the intent of our Official Plan. As the zoning in Aurora has not seen any changes since 1978… fully forty years! … it is time to evaluate and update the zoning where necessary so as to continue to allow our residents to grow in their current homes but at the same time allow the Town to have better checks and balances as to what gets built and where. This alignment of the zoning bylaw with the Official Plan would mitigate the situation that residents most take issue with – where there is development for development sake; growth that is not within the character of the community or compatible with our neighbourhoods… Yes our town will evolve and grow; but it needs to be responsible and appropriate growth; growth that meets the needs of and the vision for our community. Residents take issue with proposed wholesale changes to their neighbourhoods; they are concerned when they see requests to knock down a house (or two or three as the case may be) and in its place put 5, 10, 15 townhomes and a road up the middle.
The issue is not residents looking to build or redevelop their home. We have seen many examples of residents that have built homes, made additions and upgrades that are compatible withthe neighbourhood and fit in… The issue is development without community in mind.
The alignment of our zoning bylaw to the Official Plan will not affect our residents’ ability to re develop their properties to meet the needs of their growing family. Residents will continue to be able to do that. But by making some minor changes to our zoning and implementing site plan controls, this will allow for checks and balances to be put in place to ensure that proposed developments are compatible with the community’s character as defined by the Official Plan.
Updating zoning that hasn’t seen any real change in 40 years seems to me to be a common-sense approach to improving planning in our community. It’s a sensible way to ensure Aurora remains the fantastic community we call home! Keeping the status quo, the do-nothing approach? Well to my mind that’s a sure way to see continued issues of inappropriate growth in our community and the very real risk of losing what makes Aurora unique…
So, at the end of a very long meeting, Council had a motion to send the comments received and a draft bylaw to General Committee. The motion failed. Councillor’s Pirri, Thom and Abel and Mayor Dawe opposed the motion. Councillor Gaertner chose not to vote which made the vote a 4-4 tie. A tie vote means the motion fails… Because it failed, the issue of updating the zoning bylaw is in a bit of a holding pattern. We will have to wait until it is brought back to yet another planning meeting for any decision to be made.
A separate motion to bring forward a site plan bylaw for Council’s consideration did pass however. A site plan bylaw will allow Council to have site plan controls in place immediately while we continue to work on updating the zoning bylaw. This is a good first step… but so much more is needed…
I am hopeful that, moving forward, Council will address the issue of aligning our zoning to our Official Plan and thus can put in place the checks and balances that will ensure smarter, more appropriate growth in our community