Let me start by saying, I share the sentiments of many residents – Public Planning meetings can be a frustrating exercise at the best of times. There are legislations and related processes with respect to these meetings which do not allow for compromise. Our job then, as members of Council, is to work within the process to make the best decisions we can in the interest of appropriate development in our community. Sometimes that means saying yes and sometimes saying no. But it should always be about what’s best for the residents, the community, the Town…
Last night at Public Planning, Council had before it the revised application from Shining Hill. I recognize there were some concerns about process followed with this application. However, it should be noted that, as indicated by our Planning staff, the process followed for this application is consistent with all development applications that come before Council.
I would like to clarify what Council is considering with respect to this application. There have been many concerns and comments raised regarding the trees, wildlife and maintaining greenspace; that saying “no” to development on this property would resolve these concerns. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Saying “no” to this application does not mean no development will occur on this property, or that trees will not be removed.
This land was approved for development by a previous council. The Official Plan (OP) designates the table lands as Major Existing Institutional; which means that instead of the 108 residential units proposed in the current Shining Hill application, a proponent could build 350 apartment units, 90 medical care units, medical clinics, admin office space and a conference centre that provides overnight accommodations for up to 60 persons under the current land designation without ever coming to public planning. Think about that…an applicant could build all of that without a public planning meeting and only with a building permit.
I think most would agree, that the current OP designation for this property – Major Institutional – is not appropriate for this area or for Aurora. It doesn’t fit with our vision for growth in this part of our community.
The Public Planning meeting last night was a chance for us – residents and council members alike – to raise concerns and ask questions about the current application. The applicant and staff will work together to address the concerns and answer the questions so that when this application comes before council again at General Committee we can make the most appropriate decision.
The Applicant has made revisions to the application thus far by removing two 8-Story buildings that were previously proposed which will see the unit count go from 288 units in total to 108 units in total. They have also made a commitment to build a sidewalk that would run the entire stretch to Yonge St. With that being said, we all know there is still lots of work left to be done and questions to be answered.
Thus the decision by Council (on a 5-1 vote) was not to approve the application but rather to continue with the process. Council approved moving to the next step – bringing the application to a General Committee meeting of Council where Council will receive updated information and reports. I look forward to seeing the extensive reports as we continue to follow the process.