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'Really bad decision': City, developer ink deal on Orchard Point condo

'The feelings, the concerns, and the interest of hundreds of people in this neighbourhood doesn't mean anything to city hall' or developer, laments resident
2021-09-16 Coland Club 888
Conceptual renderings of the proposed Club 888 development on Orchard Point.

The City of Orillia and Coland Developments Corporation have come to a settlement on a controversial development planned for Orchard Point, much to the ire of neighbourhood residents who have opposed the condominium project since its inception.

The proposed eight-storey project will span properties along Atherley and Driftwood roads on Orchard Point, and will include an L-shaped, 45-unit condominium development starting at four storeys near Driftwood Road, and climbing to eight storeys along Atherley Road.

During a public meeting last December, the developer requested several zoning bylaw amendments, which included permitting an eight-storey building, a parking area adjacent to Lake Simcoe, and reduced interior sideyard setbacks for an enclosed parking area.

After an outcry from residents about the development’s potential impacts on the neighbourhood, however, council deferred making any decision on the zoning bylaw amendments and asked that Coland consider a lower building height and density, and consider limiting vehicular access solely to emergency vehicles along Driftwood Road.

In January, Coland filed an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) on council’s decision and a subsequent city staff report noted litigation would require an initial budget of $100,000.

“More than 900 days have passed since the (zoning bylaw) application was deemed complete and more than 365 days have passed since the (site-plan) application was deemed complete,” noted the appeal filed on behalf of the developer by J. Pitman Patterson of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, a Toronto law firm.

Before the issue could be heard by the OLT, however, the city and Coland struck a settlement on the project last week, which will limit vehicular access to the development along Driftwood Road, while retaining the project’s proposed built form.

“The terms of the settlement involved some restrictions to Driftwood Road access, while permitting the height and density of the building in accordance with the city’s Official Plan and in line with provincial direction,” said Melissa Gowanlock, the city’s manager of communications.

“The parties found a middle ground in that the city was able to secure restrictions in the development’s access to Driftwood Road, in accordance with the direction provided by council at the Dec. 14, 2023, public meeting on the matter.”

Gowanlock said the move will allow the city to avoid “significant costs at the expense of the taxpayer,” and that the two parties will attend a settlement hearing before the OLT in August.

Mayor Don McIsaac said the settlement was arrived at after “careful consideration of all options,” and that resident concerns were factored into the decision.

“We are mindful of the concerns raised by residents, and these played an important role in our decision-making process,” the mayor said. “The settlement route was pursued as it represented the most viable path forward to achieve a balanced outcome that aligns with the objectives set by council, feedback from residents, and respects our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Orchard Point residents, however, are frustrated with the outcome. Kathy Hunt recognizes that litigation could prove costly, but permitting the project could prove to set a bad precedent moving forward, she warned.

“I think it sets a very dangerous precedent for future development in stable neighbourhoods and elsewhere in the city,” she said. “I'm sure when this development starts to happen and people see the trees all come down, they see a huge hole in the ground beside the lake. They see a huge commercial type building being constructed, I think they will be alarmed.”

While she is not opposed to development in the area, Hunt said the density of the project will breed adverse effects in the neighbourhood – which has already seen plenty of development in recent years.

“I think it would be worth it for the city to defend its position and demand a less dense development,” she said. “They didn't, obviously – they opted not to go that route and spend the money, which I think in the long run is going to be a really bad decision.”

Another resident, Ray Ash, raised concerns about the impact the development could have on shoreline wildlife, and also expressed frustration with both the city and the developer for the settlement.

Ash said Orillia’s previous mayor, Steve Clarke, had advised a group of residents to hire their own planner to evaluate the project, and told the group Orchard Point had done its part for local intensification, and that the group had a “very strong leg to stand on” regarding its feelings towards the project.

“One of the major factors was the building does not comply with anything that the city has put up anywhere in this city, (and) it doesn't comply with anything relative to things at Orchard Point,” Ash said. “We were advised, strongly, to hire a town planner, which we did, and the end result is for what? For absolutely nothing.”

Ash said he is frustrated, along with many other residents, with both city hall and the developer.

“It tells us a lot: that the feelings, the concerns, and the interest of hundreds of people in this neighbourhood doesn't mean anything to city hall, and it doesn't mean anything to Coland – not a thing,” he said.

Coland Developments Corporation declined to comment for this story.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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