By Craig Westcott | The Pearl
George Trainor got an earful Thursday night when he opened the floor to presentations from Mount Pearl residents opposed to the City's plans for the future development of Kenmount Hill.
The independent Commissioner will now take some time to digest the range of complaints he heard and report back to the City of Mount Pearl with a report and recommendations.
One thing clear from the comments of some of the 50 to 60 people who attended the session at the Pearlgate Track & Field Complex is that opposition to the City's plans for regulating the future development of the area is not winding down.
The City's idea for the proposed Kenmount Hill Comprehensive Development Scheme Amendment is to allow for the orderly growth, development and use of land in the area in a sustainable, efficient and environmentally sensitive manner, Trainor said as a prologue to opening the floor to residents. The plan calls for mixed residential density development allowing everything from single family homes to duplexes and apartment buildings, along with commercial spaces and recreation areas.
In order to open the area to development applications by private property holders on the hill, the City must first amend its Municipal Plan to accommodate the mixed types of zoning.
The City's manager of development and planning, Catherine Howell, outlined in detail how council would like to see the area developed and addressed some of the objections the City had received prior to the hearing.
"Why Kenmount Hill, why now?" said Howell. "We are a city with a vision for growth and the development of Kenmount Hill is a critical component of that expansion... This development is positive for our city. These changes mean a mix of shops and services, new places of employment, a variety of housing forms and parks, a commitment and focus on walkability and improved transportation connections."
Howell said the City is trying to balance the wishes of the land owners with Mount Pearl's development regulations and "the objectives of the community as a whole." That means setting rules to provide for complete neighbourhoods, said Howell, with places to live and work, mixed in with parks and walking trails, protection for wetlands, provision of water, sewer and storm water infrastructure and the establishment of a road network to accommodate the future growth.
The City had two engineering companies study the area and offer recommendations, Tract Consulting and Harbourside Consultants. The City exceeded the minimum requirements for letting the public know about the proposed plans, Howell added. "We engaged early and often," said Howell.
Under the proposed scheme, at least 35 per cent of the new housing must be in the form of something other than single detached homes - in other words, duplexes, triplexes or apartments. Howell said the change will create a unique new zone in Mount Pearl. "That zone would not be located in any other part of the city," she noted.
"The vision for this study is to have mixed types of housing," said Howell. "The intent is not to have all apartment buildings or all semi-detached or quadplexes. The city needs different types of housing for different types of people. Families are changing, so we're trying to get ahead of the curve on that... We don't intend (it all) to be high density. If we approved something that was all high density we would actually be in contravention of our planning policies."
The total number of new units that could be developed is expected to be 1,285, according to the study completed by Tract.
Howell said the City, in response to public comments, has already adjusted some of its plans by adding safety features to the Montclair Playground. Some of the playground will be lost to lengthen the road into the new development area, Howell allowed, but the City will look at extending the playground in another direction, though there are wetlands there.
The City is also looking at a roundabout for the intersection of Mount Carson Avenue and Wyatt Blvd. "There is a need there for a roundabout," said Howell. "There is a T-intersection there right now with a stop sign. That would be changed in the future to accommodate a roundabout... We might look at the alignment options of including a five-link roundabout... There is a potential that it might have to be a five spoke instead of the four spoke (in the plans) that's there now."
Howell said the traffic study conducted by Harbourside is projecting that after 10 years of development, the area will see approximately 1,038 trips in the morning, with slightly more traffic leaving the area than coming in, and 2,018 trips in the evening, with slightly more cars coming into the area than leaving.
"These trips though are distributed across all the access points in the study area," Howell said, "and not centralized to one road."
As for wetlands, all existing wetlands and tributary systems have been reserved as conservation lands, said Howell. The City also intends to enforce a 30-metre buffer between any new developments and existing wetlands. That's double the provincial standards Howell pointed out. There will also be buffers required between types of housing, which will mark a change in the City's regulations.
The plan also calls for the conversion of Tavenor Place, which now has seven houses, to a collector road for the new developments to be built behind it. "That was a contentious point," Howell admitted. "We are now in a position to possibly have an alternative location just north of Tavenor Place."
One aspect of the proposed development that is outside Mount Pearl's hands is the portion of the hill along Blackmarsh Road, that is within the boundary of the City of St. John's. Howell said council is looking at developing its area so that all the new neighbourhoods are intact within Mount Pearl and not split with neighbouring municipalities, namely St. John's. "The City of Mount Pearl wants to ensure that there is a clear sense of entering and leaving a Mount Pearl neighbourhood with a clear municipal boundary," said Howell. "We did have a lot of concern expressed about that, that there would be a lot of traffic coming from St. John's through this proposed new development. Currently there is no plan to connect to other municipalities."