Letter to the Editor
City Council will soon vote on amendments to the Mount Pearl Municipal Plan 2010 and Development Regulations 2010 to change the land use designations in the Kenmount Hill Urban Comprehensive Development Area (CDA) to allow Council to permit uses currently prohibited.
The CDA borders St. John's to the north, -east and -west, and the Blackmarsh Road area to the south. This is the last land in Mount Pearl to be zoned for development, and at 91 hectares (224 acres), is the largest in Mount Pearl history.
The CDA east of Wyatt Blvd. includes sensitive lands: the steep slopes and ridge of Kenmount Hill to the highest points in the St. John's urban region at 260 metres; and the boreal forest ecosystem with wetlands and tributaries to Rennies River and Waterford River floodplains.
This CDA is “above the 190 metre” contour, long considered the upper elevation for sewer, water, and storm water service, and restricted from urban development until the City's 2015 amendment. The City contracted Tract Consulting in May 2015 to consult with the CDA property owners/developers and develop the Comprehensive Development Scheme (CDS) and Background Report.
East of Wyatt Blvd., the proposed zones are: Commercial General, Highway-Commercial, Conservation, Open Space, and Residential (High Density) (RHD) West of Wyatt is primarily Residential Commercial Mix, a new zone to permit 7-story buildings. Council has discretion to double building heights.
The RHD zone will permit housing types up to 3-story apartments. The zone’s “mandatory mix” clause requires a minimum of 35 per cent other than single family dwellings. The Tract plan includes 1284 units, for a population of 2559, of primarily high-density apartment buildings, with 92 per cent other than single family.
Development at 230 metres, the highest elevation feasible, requires a water tower on the hilltop for a 30-metre gravity feed for water pressure. Council will have discretion to permit residential high density on slopes greater than 15 per cent. Tract does not recommend this, or street grades above eight per cent on local roads and 10 per cent on collector roads, and cautions that slopes greater than five per cent are a significant obstacle to people with mobility issues.
Tract cautions high elevation development will increase the area's high winds and precipitation, snow accumulation, risk of wind damage to property, and reduce habitability for humans. This, with the steep slopes, boreal forest, shallow soil, and bedrock, increases risks of permanent deforestation, soil erosion, slope instability, downstream flooding, damage from blasting operations, challenges to detention ponds to meet the zero net run-off requirement to protect the floodplains below, and higher development costs.
Tract states the two wetlands must be protected. The City will use a 30-metre buffer. The telecommunications and water towers may risk vandalism and resident safety. Tract notes health risk from ground radio frequency interference and recommends a 200-metre telecommunications buffer like in St. John's.
The Scheme is based on “transit-oriented development,” a land use plan for urban densification reliant on strong public transportation systems. Tract recommends a public transportation strategy between Mount Pearl, St. John's and Metrobus. The amendment states “there will be periodic reviews of Metrobus routes and schedules.”
The east of Wyatt Blvd., road system includes three collector access roads, and a grid of local roads. Tract cautions the long straight road design for efficient transportation is prone to speeding requiring traffic calming measures, and there are significant traffic impacts.
A new “Penney Road” will extend east from Mount Carson behind Elmcliffe Street and encompass the northeast perimeter. To the south on Wyatt Blvd., the road planned to bisect Tavenor Place may now access through nearby Church land.
The third collector road will intersect Montclair Street through the playground and extend east to bisect the development and its commercial centre and join the new Penney Road. The playground remnant remains, adjacent to this major access road.
Penney will intersect Mount Carson in a new roundabout and extend west to Kenmount Road, where new traffic lights are planned. Wyatt will run into Penney, or may be included in a 5-spoke roundabout. Roundabouts are planned for Mount Carson at Topsail Road and at Kenmount Road.
Tract concludes the engineering studies, and the integrated transportation plan will be key to address infrastructure and traffic risks.
Bonnie O'Rourke, Mount Pearl