Legal process

The City of Guelph is considering applications for severance and development at the HomewoodAs far as we’ve been able to find out, Schlegel have filed four applications with the City of Guelph. 

One is for severance of a third of their property, with a new easement and right-of-way.  Two are minor variances to recognize non-conforming setbacks for their existing buildings.  And they have filed a site plan application for some major new construction, which involves demolition of four buildings, removal of 183 trees, relocation of the Cameron Gates, and various additions to existing buildings.

Severance

On May 21, 2014, Schlegel Health Care Inc. filed a Consent Application (B-19/14) to create a new severed lot, right-of-way, and easement.  They also filed Minor Variances (A-57/14 and A-58/14) for both the retained and severed parcels to recognize non-conforming setbacks for the existing buildings.  These applications are with the City of Guelph Committee of Adjustment.

The applications have been deferred twice.  The first deferral, on June 12, 2014, was to allow the applicant time to prepare an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and a Cultural Heritage Resource Impact Assessment (CHRIA).

The second deferral, on June 11, 2015, was to allow the applicant more time to obtain support of their EIS from the Environmental Advisory Committee, and support for their CHRIA and a previously submitted Cultural Heritage Resource Evaluation Report (CHRE) from Heritage Guelph.

The application made to the City is to sever 5.8 hectares (14.3 acres) off the southern end of the Homewood property – roughly a third of the site, in a line from Delhi Street to the river.

Homewood application for severance survey The Drawing of Severance (click on the image to enlarge) shows the area to be severed.  We find the official story for the severance hard to believe – Brad Schlegel says, “It is just to structure financing. Nothing will be different except a line on a piece of paper.” (Guelph Mercury, June 25, 2015).  However, if the severance is granted, the new parcel can be sold without any further approval.

We are working to bring awareness of our concerns about the severance to the public, to the Environmental Advisory Committee, and to Heritage Guelph, that:

  1. The severance may be a first step towards major development and/or sale of portions of the property to other developers — resulting in losses of important woodland, habitat for species at risk, and heritage value.
     
  2. If severed, reviews of future development proposals would not be able to take into account the overall significance of the Homewood land, and its natural, heritage, and habitat value.
     
  3. Unchecked tree removals have already been been taking place, perhaps in an effort to lower the perceived value of the woodlands and habitat.
     
  4. The Arthur Street Gatehouse on the proposed new lot is already in the process of being demolished by neglect.
     

Site Plan Application

Homewood existing site, overhead viewHomewood site plan survey application by SchlegelSite plan application SP13C039 (click to enlarge) was submitted to the City of Guelph on September 18, 2013 for various changes to the property, including:

  • construction of a new 2,483 square metre building south of the existing manor building;
  • the addition of 205 new parking spaces on the east side of Delhi Street;
  • associated landscaping and streetscaping along Delhi Street;
  • an addition to the Riverview Building;
  • a new atrium at the rear of the existing Manor Building; and
  • a new driveway between the Vista Building and Colonial Building.

The site plan approval process is not public.  However, the City requires an EIS and CHRIA to be approved before the site plan approval, and we are working to bring public input into the process through both the Environmental Advisory Committee and through Heritage Guelph.

Our concerns about the proposed site plan include:

  1. The loss of heritage value, especially the demolition of the Second Nurse’s Residence built in 1925 by architect Walter Herbert George, and further unsympathetic alterations of The Manor Building built in 1912 by architect George Miller.
     
  2. Killing an additional 183 trees.
     
  3. Potential for major habitat disruption for 25 species at risk.
     
  4. Increases in pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow, including pedestrian traffic across the Delhi Street north-south artery.
     
  5. Loss of public trail access through the grounds.

Applicable laws

The Ontario Planning Act and the City of Guelph Official Plan cover the policies that apply to applications like the Schlegel’s.

In 2014, Official Plan Amendment 42 (OPA 42), Natural Heritage System came into effect, which greatly enhances the protections for Guelph’s natural heritage features.  However, since the Schlegel applications were made before 2014, the City considers that the earlier version of the Official Plan applies.  Our lawyer’s position is that while the policies in OPA 42 are not binding with respect to this application, the City is required to “have regard for” the newer policies.

Under OPA 42, the woodlands on the Homewood property were given Significant Woodland status, which makes the woodlands – and a 10m minimum buffer around them – designated as a Significant Natural Area in which no development is allowed.  OPA 42 also identifies that severance of a Significant Woodlot is against the principles of good planning.

The Urban Forest Management Plan recognizes that a healthy urban forest improves our quality of life.  As the Plan states:

  • Trees, plants and shrubs help clear the air, conserve energy, increase property values, and make Guelph’s neighbourhoods more beautiful and enjoyable.

  • Guelph is working to maximize the health and size of its urban forest, and is committed to having the highest tree canopy among comparable municipalities.  To succeed, the City, residents, businesses and community partners must work together to increase the size and health of Guelph’s urban forest.

“The City of Guelph will foster the health and sustainability of its community by maximizing its urban forest cover.  Continually pursuing and promoting the implementation of best practices for tree protection, tree establishment and tree maintenance will provide a range of environmental, social and economic benefits for residents, and habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species.  By settling an example on its own lands and supporting expanded local stewardship, the City will enjoy and sustain its urban forest for the long term.”

The Guelph Tree By-law prohibits damage or destruction to any tree measuring at least 10cm in diameter, on lots larger than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres).  This by-law only covers about 6% of privately owned properties within the City.  There is an exemption for institutional lands, provided that a Tree Management Plan has been submitted and approved by a City Inspector.  Schlegel have submitted a Tree Management Plan — we don’t know at this point if it has been approved by the City.

The Guelph Zoning By-law identifies the Homewood lands as Institutional, with significant portions designated as Locally Significant Wetlands, Significant Woodlots, Natural Corridors and Linkages.  Properties containing these features are required to complete an EIS when a development proposal is submitted.

The Ontario Heritage Act and Heritage Guelph give municipal and provincial governments the power to preserve heritage buildings.  The Act allows local municipalities to prohibit demolition or removal of designated property.  However, although most of the Homewood buildings are listed on the Local Municipal Heritage Register, so far none of them have been designated.

The Places to Grow Act was created to reduce urban sprawl.  The Government of Ontario recognizes that identifying where and how growth should occur will support improved global competitiveness, sustain the natural environment and provide clarity for the purpose of determining priority of infrastructure investments.  Places to Grow contains a series of polices and targets organized around the following principles:

  • Build compact, vibrant and complete communities

  • Plan and manage growth to support a strong and competitive economy

  • Protect, conserve, enhance and wisely use the valuable natural resources of land, air and water for current and future generations

  • Optimize the use of existing and new infrastructure to support growth in a compact, efficient form

  • Provide for different approaches to managing growth that recognize the diversity of communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

  • Promote collaboration among all sectors – government, private and non-profit – and residents to achieve the vision

 

Friends of Homewood Grounds Input

Towards the end of 2015, Friends of Homewood Grounds hired a lawyer to write a letter to the City to express our concerns.  We delivered it on November 4, 2015.  You can read that letter here (pdf).  The City responded on December 23, 2015, and you can read their response here (pdf).  Some of the key points in the City’s response:

  • No plans for future development of the severed lot have been disclosed to the City, and all concerns regarding future development will only be addressed when development applications are made.
     
  • Schlegel have submitted a Cultural Heritage Resource Impact Assessment (CHRIA) and a Cultural Heritage Resource Evaluation Report (CHRE) which are not yet fully supported by City staff or Heritage Guelph.
     
  • There are opportunities for public input with Heritage Guelph and with the Environmental Advisory Committee, as well as scheduled public hearings for consent applications.

We intend to continue to bring public input into the process, and also continue to find legal protections for the natural, cultural and heritage value of the Homewood grounds.

You can help, even if it’s just by adding yourself to our Facebook group — the larger the number of members we have, the more weight it gives our input to the City.

 

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