A Scar on the Community, Four Years in the Making

Nothing underscores the weakness of our existing planning and zoning processes more clearly than the travesty that is in progress behind Innisfil Beach Park. The local papers feature photos of a (nominally) three-story home being built where a forested area was completely levelled. To add insult to injury, the builder exceeded the height limit and has now applied to the Committee of Adjustment for an exemption.

The former forest on this land backed onto Innisfil Beach Park and created a buffer between the park and the residential area beyond it. In 2007, local residents were alarmed when the Town announced that this land was being declared as “surplus”.  There’s the first of several bungled decisions. The land was already publicly owned and could have been incorporated into the park. Why did the Town feel it necessary to sell off this land? The reason given at the time was that maintenance was too costly. Former Mayor, Brian Jackson, was quoted as saying, “We don’t need it anymore. It’s a maintenance issue, we can’t get in there to maintain it. This is the normal process in our municipality… We’ll take into consideration the public interest when making a decision, we’ve done it before.”

Mistake #2: the 20 or so local residents who objected were told it was up to them if they wanted to try and preserve the natural area. I don’t know how much loot we, the people of Innisfil, got for the property. The Innisfil Scope reported at the time that the Town wanted a minimum of $61,000 for the land, which was beyond the means of local residents to raise on their own in a short period.

Mistake #3: residents and possibly town councillors were lulled into a false sense of security over the zoning protections for the property. Councillor Boynton was quoted in 2007, saying:

“The property is currently zoned as protected land, meaning a developer would have to apply for rezoning through the town, before anything could be built. The land is currently zoned for open space, and the uses are very limited. Nothing can be done to those trees without a proper study and survey done first.”

Mistake #4: even after the property was sold, a better rezoning and site plan could possibly have limited proposed development to one side of the new residential street, keeping the area adjacent to Innisfil Beach Park as forested public open space.

To all of those who participated in development of the Inspiring Innisfil strategic plan, to Town politicians, staff, community volunteers and organizers, and all those who earnestly believe in its success, construction of this ill-conceived and probably unsightly housing will be a constant and long-standing reminder to be even more vigilant about planning and zoning issues. We cannot undo the past. This blog hopes to motivate greater citizen participation in planning our future.

  • The Committee of Adjustment is scheduled to consider the builder’s application for a variance on April 12 at 1:30 p.m. If it is not granted the builder may simply install a flat roof to comply with the building height restriction.
  • The Town held a public zoning bylaw workshop on February 12, 2012 to consider a review and update of its Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw which “provides detailed regulations regarding how land may be used, where and how buildings may be built (lot size requirements, setbacks, heights), among other matters.  The updated Zoning By-law will support the Town’s new Official Plan.”
  • The Town held a competition for a new Manager of Land Use Planning in October, 2011.
  • Brian Jackson left office as the Mayor of Innisfil after 13 years in November, 2010

Then and now:

Building kills Alderslea ambiance, says resident , Innisfil Scope, March 7, 2012

Residents Treed Off, Innisfil Scope, November 28, 2007

 

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2 thoughts on “A Scar on the Community, Four Years in the Making

  1. The complete lack of engaging the public and the misinformation from previous councils continues with the present council. Take a look at what is happening in Cookstown for proof that nothing has changed. The town has recently purchased a private residence (circa 1906) located on the north corner of the existing fire hall in Cookstown. The town intends to demolish the house (without consulting its’ own heritage commitee or Cookstown residents)to make way for a new fire hall . In keeping with ‘Inspiring Innisfil’ and given that there is significant interest in preserving and protecting the existing heritage streetscapes and neighbourhoods in Cookstown, wouldn’t a plan to include public consultation about the future plans for this property be a given?

    • The only solution is for Innisfil residents (not just in Cookstown) to become more involved and vocal. There has been some talk about creating a Cookstown heritage district and a desire to map out exactly what the boundaries would encompass. But too many things, like the fire hall upgrade, occur at cross purposes to other goals. You can’t trust that the politicians, planners and town staff will get the big picture. Contact your Councillor to find out the status of the heritage district proposal; notify the Innisfil Fire Dept. and Town Council of your objection to the property demolition; organize a group of volunteers to map out the heritage district that you’d like to see in Cookstown; ask the Heritage Committee about their position on designating the house a heritage property; write to the local papers to let other residents of Innisfil outside Cookstown know about this situation. If feelings are that strong, put up signs in windows all over Cookstown reading, “No Demolition!” But also be prepared to compromise. You may not save this particular building but you may end up saving a large chunk of Historic Cookstown and sparking a renaissance. Good luck. It’s a lot of work. I know.

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