Agreeing with the concerns of a passionate band of residents, Wellesley council voted unanimously this week to reject a development proposal for Ferris Drive in Wellesley Village.
Meeting Tuesday night, councillors refused the zoning bylaw amendments necessary to build 48 homes (three single-family homes, 32 semis and 13 townhomes) on just over a 2.5 acres of land adjacent Ferris Drive, Schweitzer Crescent and Greenwood Hill Road in the Wellesley settlement area.
Speaking on behalf of the community, Andrew Brenner – a candidate for the Ward 3 seat in next week’s election – outlined several key issues with the proposal.
“The development density, as you’re probably well aware, is three times what the existing density is in that neighbourhood,” he told council. “Another concern I have from reading the (planning report), was the one sentence regarding consultation with the Waterloo Region board of education, where they said that they would be able to easily accommodate the increase in students. Personally I have to question that, when I have four children, three of which attend Wellesley Public School already, and two of them have to sit in portables everyday.”
In a long and often angry submission to council, Schweitzer Crescent resident Kim Ruthig questioned planner Geoff Vanderbaaren’s credibility and threatened legal action if the proposal passed.
“How do we trust Mr. VanderBaaren when he discounts every concern made to date by the citizens who pay his salary, yet (he) supports the developer’s wishes?” he asked, rhetorically. “I say it starts right here, with this council, by not being intimidated by developers.”
The report prepared by VanderBaaren recommended the project be approved, and dismissed a number of concerns raised at the June 24 council meeting when the application arose.
A heated discussion ensued, in which Mayor Ross Kelterborn expressed his unwillingness to approve the plan before research was undertaken to assess a potential need for a nursing home in the community.
That was, he noted, one of the possible uses for the plot discussed during the development of the neighbourhood some 10 years back.
“I would see, on this particular piece of property, a nursing-home-type building,” he said.
Later, he added, “We could also speak to other developers that are in this area if (Common Elements Condominium) is not willing to take part in (a nursing home development), that would possibly consider investing in a building such as that. In fact, I have spoken to (a developer) that is interested, and I’m not going to divulge his name, but he wants to hear what the people want in the area.”
However, the township does not own the parcel of land in question, and does not possess the authority to force a private landowner to pursue a particular type of development.
With that in mind, councillors Shelley Wagner, Herb Neher and Jim Olender quashed a motion put forward by Kelterborn to defer the issue until February 2015.
“I want to make sure that we’re not kicking the can down the road, and we’re going to go through this entire process again come February,” Neher said. “If there is no flexibility (with Common Elements Condominium’s plans), I can make a decision right now. I don’t need to wait until February.”
“I have not been in favour of the proposal right from the get go because I think it is way too much on one piece of property and I don’t think it is consistent with the homes that are in the area,” she said. “I’m not in favour of deferring it if we’re still just going to be in the same spot in February.”
With the deferral motion out of the way, council officially rejected the development plan, igniting cheers and applause from the 25 or so spectators on hand.