Abandel Zoning Appeal at the OMB February 12

Local residents voiced several concerns about the Abandel development proposal (1124-1136 Innisfil Beach Rd, near Jans Blvd.) held last night (Jan 28). From my perspective, it was useful to get an updated version of the development and its current status.  Previously (2011), the company had shown a concept for two commercial strips with car parking fronting Innisfil Beach Road and a multi-storey residential building at the rear. The commercial retail strip is designated as Phase 1 and the residential building as Phase 2.

Abandel Appealing Zoning to OMB

As I understand it, the front of the property is zoned for mixed-use (MU2) but the rear portion is zoned for “future development”. The developer has since appealed to the OMB to rezone the rear portion as MU2 as well. The Town presents its position on this appeal to the OMB on February 5 and an OMB conference takes place on February 12.

Concept Design for Phase 2

The purpose of the meeting was to receive public comment on the initial concept for Phase 2 of the development situated on the roughly 1 acre area which is under zoning appeal. It consists of a seven storey residential condo building with 84 units and underground parking. The earlier concept was revised to locate the building further east from existing residential homes on Ashley Court. The concept also included road access from a new connection to Goshen Road. The multi-storey residential concept is consistent with mixed-use zoning.

Uninformed and Unfocused

Sadly, like so many other public meetings, residents are woefully uninformed about the current state of planning, development applications and the approval process. Urban intensification under Places to Grow is mandated by the Province and has been talked about since 2005. The growth target for Innisfil was only lowered to 56,000 from 65,000 by the province. Alcona was designated as the growth area for Innisfil, first by Council years ago and since recognized by the province.

Many didn’t seem to understand that a development in some form is on the way, either now or in the near “future”. The land was designated for eventual development in Official Plans, a ‘road allowance’ from Goshen has been on the books. Innisfil’s Official Plan calls for multi-storey mixed uses in the Alcona ‘core’ area. If the OMB allows the developer’s zoning appeal, we’re at the stage of deciding what form it should take to have the best features and fewest negative impacts on existing neighbours. The Town makes its position known on February 5. Zoning approval would be followed by a specific site plan and further public consultation.

Residents mentioned concerns about potential traffic, congestion, noise, sidewalks, who pays for what, proximity to a multi-storey building and a desire for quiet  “rural” living. Some people didn’t accept that they were being shown a ‘concept’ and felt that details should be more defined.

Good for Innisfil? Can It Be Improved?

Should the OMB rezone this area based on this concept? My concern is that we should know much more about what is proposed for Phase 1 before the area is rezoned for Phase 2.  The original concept for two retail strips including a drive through does not conform with the Town’s zoning for street–front multi-use structures.  The developer could have voluntarily complied with the Town’s zoning and the objectives of Places to Grow but has opted to rely on legal alternatives. Again, as I understand it, the developer is exempt under a “grandfathering” arrangement for Phase 1. If so, there are a few concerns:

  • The south face of the residential building would be facing the rear of a retail strip plaza and parking lots.
  • The residential building would be isolated at the rear and not well integrated into the existing community until further development occurs along Goshen. The emphasis, like the retail/commercial portion, is designed more for cars. Sidewalks and trails might improve walkability and connections to the neighbourhood.
  • The building is attractive enough and a suitable height but could offer better value if it was designed for “net zero” energy use. This would require more attention to passive solar design, better orientation and possibly reconfigured to reduce energy requirements and inclusion of renewable energy features. Currently the mass of the building faces east-west winds and loses southern solar exposure.

Overall, Innisfil needs commercial/retail development and the associated employment more than it needs the residential tower. Phase 1 is the logical place to start. It seems hasty and premature to rezone this portion of the property for multi-use before we know for sure what is happening on the Innisfil Beach Road street-front portion of the property. Given that the developer chose not to cooperate with the Town’s long-standing planning objectives to zone for an Alcona ‘main street’, I don’t see any need to reward them with rezoning on the rear portion. This plan should go back to the drawing board if only on principle.