A request to rezone a parcel of land on Victoria Street, the extension of Thornhill Street East of the First Street intersection, has been unanimously defeated.
The motion put to the floor by Councilor Nancy Penner at the December 30th council meeting read:
"BE IT RESOLVED that Council of the City of Morden give 2nd reading to By-law No. 15-2022, being a by-law to rezone Lot 2, Plan 59638 & Lot 6, Plan 2020 in the City of Morden."
Mayor Brandon Burley explained the land in question is the first driveway east of the Co-op gas station on the north side of Highway 3, but also has a frontage onto First Street, as well.
"It was only a rezoning application. There was no development agreement, no site-specific plan we were approving, and so they were looking to have it rezoned to Residential Multifamily Large (RML) which is the highest density RM zoning class we permit in the city. We did see a a copy of a schematic proposed drawing of how they would situate residences on that parcel, but they were going for side-by-side townhouse, multiple blocks on that parcel."
A hearing was held November 28th at the City Council Meeting to hear from residents regarding the request.
Burley explained the decision-making process.
"As a rezoning, we don't consider what they intend to do with it, except that all anticipated uses under RML are at play, because we are approving a rezoning, not a conditional use or variation. So, under RML there are different things we could do there as well, and any of those things would be at play should the rezoning be allowed."
Once the motion was on the floor, the discussion was had by council. Burley summarized the points made.
"The lack of infrastructure upgrades at First and Thornhill, and the concern of putting on significantly higher levels of traffic at an intersection where it didn't necessarily have to be right now, and the second was, it is a critical corner in the City of Morden and with Thornhill Street being moved toward Commercial Central by MSTW (PLanning District). If we're looking at a 40-to-60-year window for residential properties, is residential the best use of that piece of land going forward as a intersection between the City and Pembina Connection?"
The motion was unanimously defeated.
Burley acknowledged the need for upgrades at the intersection in question that would have compounded by the additional traffic coming from First Street as a result of the part of the request to restrict access to the Victoria Street driveway and file all traffic onto First.
"There does have to be a change in density, and there will come a change in density, at some point, at that intersection and even along Victoria Street. I have no doubt about that, because the highest and best use, whoever is going to take full advantage of the piece of land, is going to pay the highest price for it. But we want to make sure we're not too short sighted, and that we've fully considered the impact of what a development means, not just for the next five years of our problems with affordable housing but also over the long term."
An appeal may be made by the developer to the Municipal Board, but Burley added the city designer and engineers will continue to work with the developer to identify solutions, noting in some instances it takes several requests to get it right, using the 375 Thornhill Street development as an example, which took multiple tries before receiving approval.