Original Published on Sep 23, 2022 at 11:47
Île-des-Chênes Manitoba RM of Ritchot’s council reluctantly approves project
By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents of Île-des-Chênes filled the RM of Ritchot’s council chambers on September 21 to sit in on discussions and a council vote regarding the creation of a new development at the south end of their community. Another handful of residents tuned in to the meeting through remote access.
The focus of the public hearing centred around the 71-acre first phase of residential development planned for a 161-acre parcel of land owned by Laurent Trudeau.
Delegates from Terracon, the developer behind the project, were in attendance as well as two representatives from Landmark Planning and Design Inc. (LP&DI), the company responsible for creating the development plan.
Over the course of the next two hours, council addressed a number of proposals being made by LP&DI on behalf of the developers.
The first was a request for subdivision which would allow the developer to begin work on the installation of new roads throughout the development.
A secondary application would allow for the rezoning of specific portions of the land from Agricultural Limited and Residential General-8 zoning to Residential-5 as well as Parks and Recreation zoning. This would allow for the creation of 234 residential lots, as well as greenspace located in a planned public park and an area surrounding the development’s single lake.
Application number three required council’s approval for the developer to create two-family and multifamily housing units in the areas newly zoned as R-5.
A variation request was also made to reduce the front yard, back yard, or side yard setbacks on all single-family and multifamily lots.
Finally, in order to accommodate the plan as proposed by LP&DI, the road closure of Dufault Drive would be required at the point where it intersects with Rosybloom Lane. According to planners, this change would encourage the majority of north/south traffic to use Old PTH 59 instead.
On behalf of LP&DI, Donovan Toews provided a visual presentation and detailed explanation of the finalized plans for the new development.
“The overall idea in a town is to provide a variety of home styles for different demographics,” Toews told those gathered. “Council wants to accommodate all kinds of people at different stages of life. We do believe the proposed development is much needed and it is a positive addition to the RM and the town. There were no concerns identified during the provincial circulation of the application. That is noteworthy. There are almost always some kinds of concerns from a department or two.”
Council then heard from five Île-des-Chênes residents wanting to voice their concerns or outright disapproval of either the entire project or portions of it. As well, eight letters were read into the public record from residents wishing to relay their disapproval.
Rosybloom Lane homeowner Steven Petznik spoke to his frustration about how the process has been handled by LP&DI so far.
“When we told [Landmark Planning] our street is already over-congested, we were told to get out and walk,” Petznik told council.
He appealed to the mayor and councillors to reconsider the location where Dufault Drive would be closed. The new housing development proposed for Rosybloom Lane would already double the traffic and parking along the street, he said, let alone the traffic numbers added if the lane becomes a thoroughfare for outsiders, too.
“If you’re worried about controlling traffic and the speeds going down there, a simple three-way stop would do the same amount of good as blocking roads and turning it into a maze for people [to drive through],” Petznik said.
Councillor Janine Boulanger asked Toews for clarity on the purpose of cutting off Dufault Drive at this location.
“This is the number one way to reduce speed and to reduce cut-through traffic,” Toews responded. “If you make it difficult to go from A to B, then people don’t want to go there… Our number one objective… is to do our best and not create additional traffic flow for people. We are really confident about that road pattern. So if someone suggests a different road pattern, it gets hard for us to say, ‘Okay, we’ll do that because that would make that particular stakeholder happier.’”
Shaylene Hawthorne, a property owner living just outside of Île-des-Chênes, shared her concerns over the Dufault closure from the perspective of a paramedic.
“I always hope that, in terms of [planning] traffic flow, that you consider emergency vehicle access,” Hawthorne told council. “If it were your emergency, you’d want the fastest route there.”
As to Petznik’s concerns over not being heard by LP&DI in the early planning stages of the development, Toews pointed out that, while they couldn’t accommodate on the location of the street closure, his team had been very intentional in planning larger lot single-family units along the continuation of Rosybloom, as opposed to dropping multifamily dwellings in there.
Another area of major concern for residents and some councillors was that of the proposed density of the two-family and multifamily zones, created by reducing lot sizes from 8,000 to 5,000 square feet.
Higher-density housing, they indicated, also means greater vehicular traffic and street parking issues, which poses concerns for the safety of children living in the area.
At the same time, many also asked about the necessity of reducing some side lots from the normal ten feet to five or even four feet in some instances.
“We want to plan a good community along with the RM,” Toews replied. “In the current reality of both the market and economics, and in terms of what people can afford, these are the types of densities and the range of products that you need in your neighbourhoods. So we’re really confident about the RG5 [zoning].”
On this subject, Councillor Ron Mamchuk also weighed in, referring to the fact that smaller properties hold greater appeal to many senior citizens as they downsize.
Speaking to side yard reductions, Toews argued that side yards offer little practical function other than to become added storage space or spots for camping units in the off-season. This, he says, adds nothing in the way of aesthetic appeal to any neighbourhood.
Through the course of the evening, other questions surfaced, including those related to construction vehicle access, sidewalk connections to the existing infrastructure, playground development, fences, and seniors housing options.
One resident living on Arnould Road vehemently opposed the development in its entirety.
“This is the last thing I want for our community,” their letter stated. “I have a great location at the end of town and all this development [of] cookie-cutter houses and condos and multi-living homes bring the city folk and ruins a smalltown feel.”
Towards the end of the meeting, council held court with a discussion of their own, openly expressing concerns they still carried or those that had been alleviated through dialogue with Terracon and LP&DI representatives.
When put to the vote for the subdivision and rezoning requests, CAO Mitch Duval recommended that council follow through with the third and final reading.
“We did receive objections,” Duval said. “However, in my opinion, not enough objectors to warrant a pause on third reading and the need to go to the municipal board.”
According to Duval, the provincial Planning Act requires that the municipal board become involved in settling the matter when at least 25 residents or 50 percent of the affected landowners object to an application.
In this case, out of the 83 homeowners directly affected by the project, only 13 presented official objections to council.
Regarding the variation request put forward by LP&DI, Councillor Boulanger recommended to council that an amendment be made to change the side yard reductions from the proposed five feet to eight feet instead.
The majority of council voted against this amendment.
Councillor Shane Pelletier reopened the conversation on the closure of Dufault Drive by Rosybloom. But while he empathized with the residents living in the area, he felt confident that the professionals at LP&DI know what they were doing.
“I have a hard time seeing everybody driving [down Rosybloom] because people are lazy,” Pelletier said. “Ninety percent of this traffic’s going to go to Old 59.”
Council voted in favour of accepting all applications put before them by LP&DI. Mayor Chris Ewen was the only council member to vote against the closure of Dufault Drive.
Councillor Pelletier concluded this part of the public hearing with some closing remarks.
“This is an [important] development,” Pelletier told the listeners. “We’ve been talking about this since I was in high school, which is a very long time ago. This is a direction that we can go with the town. We’re landlocked by our neighbours to the east and two sets of highways to the west.”
As for keeping Île-des-Chênes’s smalltown feel, he says that this is achieved by individual residents who go out of their way to perform neighbourly gestures more than it is by the size or type of dwellings a community offers.