Monday, May 23, 2022

Residents Express Overwhelming Opposition to Proposed Waterfront Development

Back in May, I penned an editorial entitled ‘Proposed Development Would Overwhelm Existing Neighbourhood’, and on Tuesday afternoon (November 9) during a nearly four hour public planning meeting, Meaford residents turned out en masse to express overwhelming opposition to the SkyDev proposal for the Boucher Street property, formerly the Knights flooring factory.

With Meaford Hall’s opera house, the temporary location for council meetings in order to accommodate COVID distancing measures, near capacity, more than 30 registered deputants, both in person and virtually offered comments and concerns about the proposed development, and it was clear that the development as proposed is not right for Meaford, and particularly the existing neighbourhood surrounding the property.

In addition to those who registered to express their thoughts at Tuesday’s meeting, as well as an initial public planning meeting held in May, a large number of residents have engaged in the process by submitting their comments and concerns in writing to both the municipality and Grey County. All comments are being documented and become part of the official record, and will be considered by staff and council as the process moved forward.

In short, those who made deputations at Tuesday’s meeting offered thoughtful, compelling, and respectful comments throughout the meeting, and one thing was very clear to all at the conclusion of the meeting: that many in the community oppose the proposed development. Though not one resident at Tuesday’s meeting expressed support for the proposal, it is unknown how much support has been expressed in writing.

Topping the long list of concerns expressed by residents was the high density of the proposed development as well as the high volume of traffic that would use quiet residential streets to access the property. In addition to density and traffic concerns, residents told Council that they worry that the four- and five-storey buildings in the proposal would tower over the existing neighbourhood and would set a precedent for future developments.

SkyDev had made some changes to their proposal prior to the November 9 meeting, however those changes were not enough to sway residents who noted that the changes were minor and did not address the most critical concerns.

The residents who offered their comments during the meeting did Meaford proud. All who participated did so respectfully, and with conviction. There was no name calling as we have seen in past hot topic meetings, there were no baseless accusations, just residents expressing their concerns about a proposed development that would forever change an existing neighbourhood and our waterfront.

While some were frustrated that the many questions posed were not answered by the developer during the meeting, that is typical of public planning meetings, where the intent is to gather the concerns and comments from residents. The answers will come at a later date, again typical of the established process, as it is common for a developer to take some time to sift through the dozens of questions and concerns and then provide a formal response to municipal planning staff, and those responses will be part of staff’s report to Council.

As I wrote back in May, though I am a supporter of the movement toward increasing densities, not every property is suitable, and I would suggest that the former Knights flooring plant is not the right location for a high density development. As I have noted previously, the access to the property is through a long established neighbourhood, on streets that were not designed for nor intended for a high volume of traffic. Additionally, I feel that this waterfront property must be developed in a way that compliments our harbour area, and is in line with proposed future plans for our waterfront.

It is perhaps worth noting that not a single one of the 30 residents who addressed Council during the public meeting expressed support for the proposed development. The opposition to the proposal was overwhelming indeed, but I would suggest not nearly as overwhelming as the proposed development would be for the existing neighbourhood.

Meaford residents aren’t opposed to development, but it is clear that they are opposed to development that doesn’t make sense, and the SkyDev proposal just doesn’t make sense for the existing neighbourhood or the community at large.

For months to come this proposal will be in the forefront, and it will likely be a long haul before SkyDev has a revised proposal that the community will accept. The democratic process is traditionally slow-moving, and with good reason. As the old song used to say, ‘fools rush in, where wise men never go’.


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