Politics

Zoning change sheds light on Sifton subdivision development, draws ire of neighbours

The frustration was palpable during a meeting of London’s planning and environment committee on Monday as dozens of residents, who take issue with plans to expand an east London subdivision, interrupted proceedings.

Sifton Properties already has approval to build 30 single detached dwelling units in the northwest corner of their Victoria On The River Neighbourhood at Commissioners and Hamilton roads. But a small zoning change is needed, and that resulted in Monday’s public participation meeting.

“The application before you today is really just dealing with a minor adjustment to the zone boundary,” explained city planner Lou Pompilii.

That didn’t stop multiple outbursts from the gallery requiring Anna Hopkins, the committee chair, to call for order while Pompilii addressed concerns about increased traffic in the neighbourhood, how people will access the new homes, and environmental impacts to a nearby pond.

Pompilii acknowledged concerns about traffic, attributing them to a lack of “awareness there was an access that was approved previously, providing access to this block.”

The development will be accessed by a road connecting it to Sheffield Place, which was “designed to accommodate that additional traffic” rather than by a road connecting it to Commissioners Road, as some residents suggested.

“There are no opportunities for an alternative public road access to this site,” Pompilii said.

“An environmental impact study has been prepared to address the pond and the ravine crossing. It’s undergone extensive review. … Measures will be taken to minimize any impacts on the pond and the wildlife habitat.”

The review, he said, included staff from the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, the applicant’s environmental consultant, and the city’s ecologist.

“The area of disturbance is minor. It will result in a loss of .08 hectares of open water. The pond does not provide any habitat for any fish species, but it does provide habitat for turtles and frogs. There is a compensation and restoration plan that identifies various opportunities for habitat enhancements. This includes planting of wetland features, logs for turtle basking, as well as a live wall will be installed … between the condo units and the buffer area.”

Committee members also discussed ways to make sure people who buy subdivision homes are not surprised by developers’ plans.

“They’re told when they buy that they have these premium lots,” said Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy, offering another example where open space was designated for a school but was later turned into homes instead.

“They assume premium means that will always be an open space, while down the road, school boards inform the city that those blocks aren’t needed for a school. So, the developer is then allowed to put more resident development there. People are caught off guard by that,” Cassidy said.

Pompilii suggested better physical signage as a way to better communicate plans for a specific area.

The committee agreed unanimously to recommend the zoning swap, drawing ire from those in the gallery.

Pompilii pointed out there was still an opportunity to address residents’ concerns during the site plan approval process.

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