CCKT Commentary on Kettleby Variance Application

Feb 27, 2014

Last week, representatives of Kettleby Village Association (KVA) and local residents circulated a petition to gain support for their opposition to a Committee of Adjustment (COA) application.

The COA rightly rejected it, but the circumstances surrounding it have left further uncertainty and tension in the minds of these residents.

CCKT posted their rationale in our February 18th post (read it here). KVA later posted a public letter below it, following the decision.

Below is CCKT’s full commentary on this application, partially quoted in an article by Mark Pavilons in the King Weekly Sentinel:  Emotions run high; committee nixes larger house in Kettleby.

We welcome further commentary from you:  Please see the Comment section at the bottom of this post.

 

CCKT is delighted that this application was rightly refused by the COA.  Kettleby is a tight-knit community, one where neighbours all know one another:  residents come together to plan events, celebrate the seasons, and support each other in times of distress or sadness.  This “win” is bitter-sweet –  its exposed weaknesses in our current development processes and tools.  Kettleby is not at peace, their harmony has been sadly disturbed.

This unfortunate case demonstrates how critical our upcoming Official Plan Review is, to make sure our planning tools all sing from the same song sheet.  The Hamlet Plan supposedly governing development in Kettleby is currently a stand-alone document, simply “deferred” to by our current Official Plan (a document itself that has it’s origins in the 1970’s).  It has no teeth.  Builders and developers “refer” to it, Staff encourage it, but time and time again they simply do what they want, with little meaningful recourse by Staff or Council.  A similar story plays out for all our community plans and design guidelines.

In this case, the expectations of the Kettleby community was documented in this bylaw, defining a number of elements to allow respectful growth, thereby maintaining harmony in the community. This was taken for granted by not only the land owner and builder, but by Staff as well.  It’s no surprise the community reacted the way it did, they felt betrayed.  But in addition, the Committee of Adjustment didn’t even get it:  They denied the bylaw amendment, but did so primarily because the bylaw was “only 3 years old”.  Do bylaws have a shelf life?  

What’s most unfortunate, is that several years ago Kettleby residents attempted to have their Hamlet declared a Heritage Conservation District, a designation shared by Kleinburg and Unionville.  The protections this designation offers would have likely prevented this very sort of thing from happening. It failed. Perhaps the community can give new thought to re-exploring this option (Schomberg’s Main Street commercial/residential district would do well to consider the same).

Good management and communication can go a long way to avoiding these situations.  But if anything, this example shows how important it is that our planning tools be integrated and strengthened so that vagueness, interpretation and downright political influence are further removed from the process, to the betterment of our communities.

And they will be, but this process will take several years to complete. And the new Official Plan, and all its supporting documents and plans, will be subject to Ontario Municipal Board appeals.   In the meantime, we are unfortunately stuck with what we have.

What can we do?  Here are some ideas:

  • Make these issues subjects of this year’s municipal election debates.  Talk to your Councillors and candidates about what concerns you, and urge them to support our village and hamlet plans and design guidelines.
  • Urge Council and Staff to selectively redirect sensitive COA applications to Council.   The COA is a delegated authority; its power is within Council’s discretion, and knowing the sensitivity to specific applications, Council can take on the review and approval/rejection itself.  This is the right place under these circumstances for contentious applications like this one (note the emotions and conduct at the COA!).
  • Get engaged.  Municipal government affects the lives of us more than any other level, believe it or not.  This is but one example.  Read, review, challenge, and vote!  Only half of eligible King residents voted in the last election. Join them.

Greg Locke
Chair – Concerned Citizens of King Township