OrilliaMatters received the following letter from Kathy Hunt in response to a recent article about the Orchard Point neighbourhood.
Ah, ha! Just as I suspected – in response to your recent article, “City ponders the future of Orchard Point community, published July 22 – one of your readers commented that Orchard Point is a “well-to-do area” implying a “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard) situation.
This is an understandable response, given the focus of the article, which provided a summary of the report submitted to council by the Department of Development Services, but did not include the perspective of the residents of Orchard Point.
Up until the development of the Orchard Point condominiums almost a decade ago, the neighbourhood was comprised of small- and medium-size single family homes, with ownership in some cases going back generations.
The residents of the Orchard Point community are not against development, as long as it is suited to the neighbourhood. What the community did not agree with in 2009 was the development of two to three large condominium buildings and the negative impact they would have on the community.
At the time, City of Orillia council agreed with the residents and did not approve the development as presented. The developers’ next step was taking the issue to the Ontario Municipal Board, which approved the development, going against the wishes of Council and the residents.
It seems to me, that once this development was approved, it was easier for the city to change the classification from stable neighbourhood to intensification in order to respond to and support current and potential developers.
As explained in the report to council, “provincial policy and plans require Orillia to intensify to curb urban sprawl and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the creation of complete, compact, transit-supportive and walkable communities. “ Orchard Point does not fit the bill. For example, it is almost impossible to walk to the nearest bus stop in the winter and often extremely dangerous to turn left from Orchard Point onto Atherley Road at any time of year, in any kind of vehicle.
Other cities, also needing to comply with the province’s directive, seem to have been able to identify areas for intensification that do not impact stable neighbourhoods. For example, in Burlington: “Intensification will be directed away from established neighbourhoods…”; and in Guelph, “intensification will be focusing on… sites located in the urban growth centre and adjacent mixed-use zones…”. Brantford has identified a number of opportunities, including: “downtown area, major transit station areas… redevelopment, brownfield sites, expansion of existing buildings and grey fields.”
Other communities are finding intensification opportunities that would not have such a detrimental impact on stable neighbourhoods.
In justifying the recommendation in the report (to keep Orchard Point zoned intensification), Director of Development Services Ian Sugden said that the city needs a balance of residential types throughout the city in order to meet requirements of growth from the province. What about the balance of residential types within a neighbourhood?
With Orchard Point’s current designation, the entire neighbourhood could easily become high-rise condos – especially because this designation does not allow for building a single-family home. Where’s the balance?
And finally, when it comes to Sugden’s comment about planning being “a two-way street,” and the lack of knowledge among Orchard Point residents concerning the area’s designation in the latest official plan, the residents cannot be accused of not being engaged.
They were extremely engaged when the initial proposal for development in the neighbourhood was made. Their lack of participation in subsequent Official Plan meetings could have been because they were not properly informed that a major change to the Official Plan had been recommended for their neighbourhood – one which would ultimately bring about drastic change.