Break in tradition raises concerns about pending PAC decision

by | Jun 14, 2024

Resident believes Woodstock council is changing the planning process to help fellow councillor’s proposed development

Woodstock council’s decision to predetermine the Planning Advisory Committee’s (PAC) approval of development plans by a sitting councillor’s company smacks of favouritism, say neighbours to the proposed developments.

Helen Street resident Jamie Wishart, whose home sits near the planned development, said he and his neighbours are upset with council’s apparent break in tradition regarding the PAC process.

Wishart suggested money is the driving force behind council’s unusual decision to tell PAC it has no objection to the committee granting the required variances to allow Coun Mike Martin’s business to proceed with constructing two multi-unit residences on Helen Street.

“I feel as though they did it with purpose. It’s deceiving and they’re all friends with their councillor friend who is set to make money personally and is set to make money for the town,” Wishart told the River Valley Sun after attending the May 28 council meeting.

Council approved a motion at the previous council meeting on May 14 to express “no objection” should PAC decide to grant the needed variances.

Wishart said he was among seven or eight neighbouring residents who attended the subsequent PAC meeting on May 21 to express their opposition to the development. The two development applications were tabled for the next PAC meeting, which is set for June 17.

Before discussing the three PAC-bound developments at the May 14 council meeting, Coun. Martin recused himself and left the meeting.

CAO Allan Walker explained why the items appeared on the agenda.

In the absence of a qualified public planner on town staff, he explained that legal advisors suggested a council no-objection to the variances could protect against future appeals.

After the meeting, Walker told the River Valley Sun that the town had cancelled the contract with Dillon Consulting, which previously provided planning services.

He explained he decided to cancel the contract, which did not need council approval.

Walker said the town is in the process of hiring a planner.

During the May 14 council meeting, Woodstock Development Officer Andrew Garnett provided details about the projects heading to PAC, including the plans for multi-unit residences at 108 and 115 Helen Street.

While both properties are zoned R1, he said council holds the authority to allow the construction of a multi-unit building. He said the developer’s plans call for a three-unit building on one property and a four-unit on the other.  

Garnett acknowledged both properties require variances to allow front and back setbacks below legal requirements. Despite the setback requirements, he said the properties could handle the buildings.

Garnett added both projects address the town’s ongoing housing needs.

While Wishart agrees Woodstock requires housing, he said neither of the planned buildings meets the needs of the Helen Street community.

He said the builder is trying to squeeze two buildings onto tiny lots.

Wishart said the buildings will also amplify existing safety issues on the dead-end residential street.

“You’re packing too many people into one small area,” Wishart said

Because Helen Street sits next to the Townsview School, parents use it every morning to drop off their children and avoid the traffic at the front of the school.

Wishart said the heavy morning traffic puts children and all residents at a safety risk. He said drivers rush up and down the street as they drop off their sons and daughters and then hurry away to get to work.

Because it’s a dead-end street, he said these motorists must dangerously turn in the street or use a private driveway. Instead of adding to the congestion, Wishart suggested the town address Helen Street’s already unsafe traffic flow.

In the meantime, Wishart said he and other Helen Street residents plan to oppose the residential project.

“While he understands council can overrule a PAC decision, he said, previous councils allowed PAC to make its decisions based on facts.

“Council already made the decision before the PAC even advised them,” Wishart said. “That’s the problem. It just absolutely reeks.

FOREST FIRE INDEX – click image for current status

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have successfully subscribed! A confirmation email has been sent to your email account. To complete your subscription, open the email and click on the confirmation link. (If you can't find it in your inbox, try your junk and spam folders.) If you'd like to receive our updates more than once a week, please click the "Manage your subscription" link at the bottom of your Newsletter.