Council ignores OCP, moves ahead with controversial Cooke Avenue rezoning application

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
August 22nd, 2013

Council held a Committee Of the Whole meeting on Tuesday to discuss the plans for a housing development on the old Cooke Avenue School site.  The site has been vacant, and the subject of discussion for quite some time now.  On the table at the COW meeting were amended layout plans, provided by the proponent, Cezary Ksiazek.

The position held by Mike Maturo, Manager of Planning and Development, was to not advance the application for rezoning, as the application did not address specific OCP policies–particularly issues around parking and traffic circulation.

The proposal by Ksiazek, allows for five access points along Cooke Avenue, and two along Thompson Avenue.  The City’s preference would be for just two access points along Cooke Avenue.

“We’re not looking at a layout, we’re looking at a zoning application.  So we’re looking potential impact on the surrounding area,” said Maturo.  “We feel restricting access to one block, at two points, would do the job of meeting some of the policies of the OCP and would be the best planning practice at the development stage.”

Councillor Kathy Wallace said, “This is about parking, really.  If we have a number of driveways coming out on to those streets, it encourages people to park on the road.  We have this issue all over the city, and that’s part of reason the planning department is promoting avoiding that with any new developments.”

The discussion kept coming back to the point that the issue on the table was an application for rezoning, and not a proposed layout.  Ksiazek has provided a proposed layout for development, but the specifics involved in the layout are not finalized.  If the application for rezoning was approved, the layout specifics could change.

“We’re looking at land and impacts on surrounding lands; we’re not looking at layout,” said Maturo.  “Layout comes at subdivision or strata stage.  We do try to highlight to council and the public all the issues and how these issues could be addressed at the zoning stage.  We’re trying to say, what is optimal for this site’s development and how can zoning handle it best, as a first phase, after approval from council.”

Councillor Tim Thatcher said he felt that the development needed to go forward but was concerned about meeting the OCP policies.  However, Mayor Granstrom pointed out that the OCP was a guiding document, and Mr. Maturo echoed that it was something planners try to steer by, but not a do-all-end-all document.

Granstrom said, “Council may wish to go to first and second reading, then hear from the public, who are responsible for the OCP.  If the proponent hears from the public, there may be an alteration to this plan, and we can look at that after second reading.”

“The zoning, as it’s presented to us, makes sense,” said Councillor Jody Blomme.  “It’s hard for me to be part of this discussion, when the really important parts can’t really be discussed.”

“The zoning is definitely a change in neighbourhood character,” said Maturo.  “We feel it’s an incremental change, that can be handled well in that neighbourhood, on that lot, with those densities.”

In the end, Council voted to approve the rezoning application, with Blomme, Thatcher, and Granstrom in favour and Wallace opposed.  A public hearing has been scheduled for September 23rd.

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