The Ontario Land Tribunal recently approved zoning bylaw amendments that permit the construction of 16 townhouses and a four-storey building with a height of 21.5 meters at 125 Pirie Dr. The approval came following a four-hour settlement hearing on January 27th, 2023.
The main building is expected to house a maximum of 100 residents for a retirement home and 84 apartment units, with a total of 165 parking spaces for the entire development. Tribunal chair David Brown made an oral decision, and the official written order will be released in approximately two months. City staff were unable to confirm the process for implementing the tribunal’s order and any other approvals that may be necessary by the deadline.
City of Hamilton lawyer Patrick MacDonald acknowledged the unusual way the zoning amendment was decided by the tribunal. He stated that “while this is a settlement hearing, it is not in the city’s view a typical settlement hearing. Council has never made a decision on this.”
The original rezoning application was made in December 2020 and was deemed complete by the city on February 5th, 2021. After review, the applicant, FGL Pirie Inc., reduced the number of townhouses from 17 to 16 and relocated the access on Governor’s Road further east. The application was resubmitted in December 2021.
A staff report recommending approval was presented to the September 6th, 2022 planning committee, but councillors deferred consideration until 2023. The public meeting for the application was not held. The applicant quickly appealed to the OLT due to the lack of decision within the legislated timeline. In November 2022, city council directed legal staff not to oppose the appeal.
Three residents who originally requested party status at the settlement hearing were dissuaded or denied the opportunity to question the sole witness, Glenn Wellings, the appellant’s planning consultant. Tribunal chair David Brown warned them that they could be responsible for some of the appellant’s costs if they were deemed to have wasted time and money by taking an unnecessary role and not introducing new evidence.
The appellant’s lawyer, Denise Baker, opposed the residents being made parties, arguing that there was no indication they had witnesses or new evidence to refute her client’s evidence. She argued that their concerns were included in the city staff report. Brown denied Alan Tucker’s bid for party status, but granted all three participants status, accepting their submitted statements.
Tucker expressed his disappointment, saying that it was unfair to expect private citizens to provide witnesses and evidence without the resources the appellant has. Resident Michele Gunn also expressed frustration, stating that there had been no official public meeting on the application due to the report deferral, and no resident input after the staff report came out. Allison Gorecki also declined to seek party status, stating that there had been a lack of clear communication with residents and that it was a waste of time to address the issue in this forum.
In her closing statement, Baker emphasized that the application was in the city’s hands for 628 days without a decision, when zoning amendments should be addressed in 90 days. She stated that the comprehensive review and staff recommendation for approval should carry a lot of weight.
In conclusion, the Ontario Land Tribunal has approved the zoning bylaw amendments that permit the construction of 16 townhouses and a four-storey building with a height of 21.5 meters at 125 Pirie Dr. Although the process and any additional approvals required are yet to be confirmed, the official written order is expected to be released in approximately two months.