Petrolia council removes development restrictions for Richter

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It’s a move Lambton County Planner Rob Nesbitt calls rare.
Petrolia Town Council will allow development on a parcel of land on Eureka Street even though a formal plan for the area was not submitted.
Horst Richter owns the land which is near Gables Subdivision and behind some of the homes he placed on the 50-foot lots on Eureka Street. The land has been in what planners call a holding zone or pattern, restricting it from development.  In June 2000, the council of the day passed the zoning change to stop development in the area saying there would need to be a plan of subdivision submitted before any development could occur.
But Richter came to council Monday asking the zoning restriction be lifted. The zoning notice said Richter planned to put two single-family homes on the three acres of land. There was no plan of subdivision or even a sketch for councillors to view.
Nesbitt recommended against the move saying “The “H” symbol was applied to these lands to ensure the orderly development of the lands for residential use. Utilizing the property for two single detached dwellings will not constitute an orderly development and will result in an inefficient use of lands.”
As councillors asked questions about the proposal, Richter explained he didn’t necessarily want to develop the land immediately, he simply wanted to the holding zone removed so he could move another house onto Eureka Street next month.
Richter explained he wanted to place the home about four feet away from what would be a driveway for the single family homes he was proposing. If the hold restriction remained on that land,  the county wouldn’t allow him to do that. The reason; someday there was the possibility the laneway would be a municipal road. Then the home would need to be 19 feet away.
The issue confused some of the councillors, so at Richter’s request, staff brought a flip board so he could sketch out the area.
“I don’t have a plan today per say for that piece of property at the back,” says Richter. “There could be a couple of duplexes put back there perhaps, but I don’t have a plan for the back lots. The reason for the application is to remove that holding pattern to position the house that is coming in.”
The developer later added he “can see me putting an estate home back there” pointing to his drawing, “I can never ever see anything beyond that. It’s butting up against industrial land and other homes…this isn’t a prime area.
“My opinion is no one is going to come out of the woodwork someone is not going to want to build a subdivision back there.”
Mayor John McCharles agreed saying it is “probably not a high density area for housing. I can’t see it as high density. I’m sure the residents on Eureka would prefer it was not high density…I personally don’t see four plexes going there.”
There were only two neighbours at the hearing – a husband and wife who lives in one of the homes along Eureka Street– who spoke in favour of having just a couple of homes behind theirs. “I don’t want to be looking out my back window and be looking at my neighbour,” the resident said adding he likes the wooded area behind him. “That’s why we bought the house.”
While Nesbitt understands Richter’s concerns he can’t place the house on his other lot “it is not tied into whether you (council) should or should not remove the H designation.
“Given there are no specific plans for the lands, it would be another reason not to lift the holding pattern,” says Nesbitt.
Councillor Liz Welsh questioned why Richter wouldn’t develop something like the Gables Subdivision in the area. He says the area is too narrow to accommodate homes on both sides of one street.
Welsh was still concerned there was not information to remove the holding zone and made a formal motion to keep the hold designation on the land at this time.
Councillor Mary Pat Gleeson agreed. McCharles, Councillors Joel Field, Ross O’Hara and Tim Brown did not and the holding zone was lifted. (Councillor Grant Purdy was absent.)
Nesbitt says it is rare for a holding zone to be lifted without a plan of subdivision in place. “I’ve never seen it,” the long-time planner told The Independent after the meeting.
Nesbitt adds the municipal council went against its own planning bylaw since the original bylaw intended for a plan to be in place before the holding zone was removed.
According to the Planning Act, the change in zoning can’t be appealed and takes effect immediately.

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