If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s a saying taken to heart by a developer eager to build homes on a piece of land adjacent to Elmira’s Union Street industrial area.
Hawk Ridge Homes has twice been turned down by Woolwich, the region and the Ontario Municipal Board since first pitching the idea in 2009. Its latest subdivision proposal offers up small tweaks from a 2016 plan that got a chilly reception, and the mood was much the same at a public meeting May 7 in township council chambers.
The latest version calls for 36 homes instead of 39, essentially removing a small block at the corner of Union and First streets from residential development plans to serve as something of a bugger space, noted director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.
The applicant suggests the noise issues that helped torpedo previous attempts are no longer a concern, not because of mitigation but because of plans to include a noise warning on the homeowners’ titles and to include air conditioning in all homes so that windows can remain closed even in summertime, he added.
The message wasn’t selling, however, as the plan faced criticism from residents and the industrial neighbours, who continue to argue the property at 36-68 Union St. is unfit for residential use.
“It’s really frustrating to have to deal with another proposal for a subdivision on the Hawk Ridge property,” said former Elmira resident and environmentalist Susan Bryant, who provided a detailed written critique of the plan, as she had in 2016.
“Why are we here again over a proposal that’s not substantially different from the last one, which was turned down by the township, the region and then, on appeal to the OMB?”
Bryant argued the matter has already been decided, with the latest go-round offering no solutions to the noise problems, nor even any mention of the potential health and safety concerns that come with the proximity to a large multi-chemical production plant (Lanxess) and the sulphur-product manufacturer Sulco (Canada Colors and Chemicals).
With all train traffic to the industrial area to be restricted to late-night hours, noise issues and the dangers inherent in loading and unloading chemicals are going to be magnified at a time when residents are “asleep and most vulnerable,” she said.
“Hawk Ridge is not a company that takes seriously the interests, concerns and realities of the community in which it wants to build, or the residents for whom it wants to build.”
Her arguments were echoed by Pat McLean, a member of the community advisory groups for Lanxess and Sulco.
“I also share the frustration of having to be back here yet again,” she said of addressing the same concerns.
Given the proximity to the industrial area, a subdivision at that location would be poor land-use planning, McLean suggested.
“What is a realistic minimum separation between a chemical manufacturing operation and housing? Would you live there?” she asked.
“Noise, odour, dust and more noise – trains, operating equipment, large trucks and more, they all exist today and they are not going to be reduced, probably even increased.”
McLean pointed to a letter from CCC Sulphur Products president Ron Koniuch detailing a list of noise and safety concerns that the company has expressed since Hawk Ridge first proposed a subdivision on the 5.5-acre property currently home to an old apple orchard.
Perhaps like a zombie, the applicant keeps returning to council, which is a source of frustration to opponents, Coun. Patrick Merlihan noted.
“It’s been before council a number of times now. It’s been to the OMB, and lost at the OMB. I guess the frustration is, how many times can a development come back, virtually very similar, to keep trying to get a kick at the can?”
For its part, the developer sees the latest proposal as dealing with the issues raised previously, said Arlene Beaumont, a planner with W.E. Oughtred & Associates.
The revised plans calls for 12 single-family and 24 semi-detached homes. Currently dead ends, Bauman and College streets would be opened up to Union Street, allowing for north-south lot configurations on the property bounded by First Street to the south.
Tuesday night’s meeting was for information only. Planning staff will be taking input from public before eventually coming back to council with a recommendation report at a later date.