Thursday, October 21, 2021

Few Invited to July 2 SkyDev Meeting – As Intended, CAO Explains

A July 2 meeting focused on the proposed SkyDev development on the former Stanley Knight flooring factory property located at 226 Boucher St. E., came as a surprise to many residents and members of council, however the meeting, held the day after the Canada Day holiday was intended for a small audience, and more meetings are being planned.

Though the invitations to the meeting were sent to Meaford residents by CAO Rob Armstrong, the meeting was not a municipal meeting.

In accordance with the Planning Act, the Municipality is required to hold a least one public meeting as it relates to a planning application.  The first one occurred on May 17th and I fully expect that we will hold another public meeting in September based on a revised proposal and the additional information that the proponent mentioned at the first meeting.  These are the Municipally held meetings,” Armstrong explained to The Independent. “In addition to these meetings, we encourage the Developer to meet with the community to present or discuss their proposal.  These are not municipal meetings, but the Municipality can assist with setting these up and staff can attend if available.”

Armstrong told The Independent that SkyDev recently held a virtual meeting with local advocacy group Imagine Meaford.

I was asked by Imagine Meaford to attend.  We made it very clear that Imagine Meaford does not represent everyone who submitted comments and they should meet with others,” said Armstrong. “Based on discussion with Skydev, we thought we would start with the immediate neighbours who submitted comments at the Public Meeting.   Immediate neighbours were those that live with the prescribed notification distance under the Planning Act (120 metres).  This would control gathering limits.  Invitations to the meeting were sent out by the Municipality (me) on behalf of the developer to protect the privacy (contact details) of those people who have requested information about the development. I used bcc to the invitees.  Although we sent the invite, this was not a municipal meeting in any way, but a chance for the public to meet with the developer. As such, municipal staff were not in attendance and Council were not invited.”

The proposed development has raised significant concerns for Meaford residents, and as a result, 38 individuals registered to address council during the May 17 virtual public meeting, another 125 written comments were received by municipal planning staff, and as many as 80 watched the meeting live on the municipality’s YouTube channel.

Each resident was given an opportunity to share their concerns about the development which would see the lands be rezoned to the Residential Multiple zone to facilitate the construction of a five storey hotel and spa, three two-storey townhouse buildings, three five-storey waterfront townhouse buildings, and two five-storey apartment buildings on the lands. The Development Concept includes 90 hotel units, 14 two-storey townhouse units, 72 waterfront townhouse units, and 120 apartment units (proposed as rental tenure) for a site-wide total of 206 residential units.

The developer told council that they plan to name the development ‘Knight’s Harbour’.

Many of the same concerns were shared by the nearly 40 who participated on May 17, with density, increased traffic for the existing residential neighbourhood, building height, and protection of access to the waterfront topping the laundry list of concerns.

Representatives of SkyDev, who hope to develop the property told council at the conclusion of the May 17 meeting that it was clear that they needed to go back to the drawing board, and they advised council that they would review the many questions of residents and will provide answers in the coming weeks. Council has yet to receive an update from the developer.

When asked about the July 2 meeting, Mayor Barb Clumpus noted that neither she nor other members of council attended the meeting as it was not a municipal meeting, but rather was intended for residents to engage with the developer.

I recall from the public meeting convened by the municipality in May, the developers – and Council members – listened intently to the many (38) comments from the public, I know I did. At that time, a commitment was made by SkyDev Corp. to meet with smaller groups outside of a formal meeting for further discussion of their concerns, and there was also a commitment from CAO Rob Armstrong, which he has undertaken, to continue working with the developers on the issues identified by the public,” Mayor Clumpus told The Independent. “My understanding of the July 2 meeting, which was not organized by the municipality, nor was either Council or staff invited or expected to attend, was that this was an invitation from the developer to the neighbours directly surrounding the proposal site to engage them, in a socially distanced way, in discussions of their particular concerns. The invitation to this meeting was sent out by our staff on behalf of the developer to protect the privacy of those who have requested further information; I understand more such meetings are planned.”

Asked if better communication with residents and the media could have avoided confusion and frustration in the community who were surprised to hear of the July 2 meeting, Clumpus agreed that “you can always make improvements in communication.”

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