The City's Planning Advisory Committee is a committee of council that can make-or-break a developers plans when it comes to building in the city of Windsor. During the Burger King Relocation debate, we saw that this committee doesn't really look for the viability of the recommendations coming before it, nor do they look at the long-term consequences that their approval or denial may inflict upon us. It is for reasons such as this that we must really start to keep an eye on this group of unelected municipal decision makers.
First, let's review the roles and responsibilities of this committee.
-PAC makes recommendations to City Council on a variety of planning matters (e.g. plans of subdivision, condominiums, rezoning applications, and changes to the Official Plan.)
-PAC has no legislative powers.
-PAC is appointed by Council to listen to the concerns of citizens and developers, evaluate recommendations made by the Development planning staff and make recommendations to Council.
-Recommendations are usually to approve, approve with conditions, or deny applications.
-Members of PAC include both elected City Councillors and other people appointed by Council. -There are eight members, including a chairperson.
-Meetings are held in the Council Chambers in City Hall on the third Thursday of each month.
-Public notices are sent by mail to all persons listed on the assessment rolls within 120 metres of the property affected. Newspaper notices are also used. Notices advise of the date, location and time that PAC and Council will consider matters, as well as the name of the applicant, the location of the property affected and a brief description of the matter.
So that's what they do. Sounds pretty benign, doesn't it. Yet, PAC wields a considerable amount of influence. Now, what kind of person does council look for when it decides who is going to be appointed to these positions? Check back in the next PAC Watch!, scheduled to address PAC's October 18 agenda, to find out.
Which brings us to this weeks September 20 PAC meeting on Thursday in council chambers at 5:00 pm. SDW urges everyone to read through the meetings agenda and seriously consider the consequences of approving of these items.
PAC 1: SMART CENTRES (WALMART) (Z-013/07) Council – Oct. 15, 2007 (Planner – Bob Riley) Lands located at 7100 Tecumseh Road East. The applicant is proposing an expansion to the existing Walmart store.
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You've GOT to be kidding me?!? Putting the words "Smart Centres" in the same phrase as "Wal Mart" is insulting to our intelligence. So Wal-Mart, the quintessential killer of local economic development, wants to expand? Apparently, these so-called "category killers" haven't done enough damage to our community. Look at our downtown heart and tell me how our local independent business people are succeeding? Now, you don't really need me to tell you how I think PAC should vote on this one, do you.
I'm not holding my breath, however. I don't think this community has come to terms with just how detrimental these big-box retailers are to our community
Recommendation for PAC 1 vote:
-Approve with conditions
PAC 2 1223244 ONTARIO LTD. (Z-063/03) Council - Oct. 15, 2007 (Planner – Adam Szymczak) Lands located on the northwest corner of Matchette Road and Sprucewood Avenue. The applicant is proposing construction of four commercial pads of varying size.
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I must tell you - I have always HATED numbered companies! They always seem as though they're trying to hide something. And, in this specific case, those numbers are hiding the fact that this is Jenny Coco's latest sprawl-town development, though it was stated that a third party developer is involved with actually developing the land. Here's the report she submitted to PAC.
This is classic big-box retail/commercial development, folks. I don't need to get into specifics for you to build a mental picture of what it's going to look like. The planner for the project told me it's going to incorporate a minimum of 400,000 square feet (which means it will probably be more) of retail/commercial space with a paved area to accommodate a minimum of 2,300 cars (which means it will probably be more). LaSalle residents should attend this PAC meeting in full force, because this development is intended to ravage any smaller local economic development in place at this time. Windsor residents should be concerned as well, as it will add further to the leapfrogging of sub/ex-urban development and make fleeing to the suburbs a little more attractive to those people sitting on the fence about the future of this community. This is two big-box items on this PAC agenda alone. Sort of feels like an onslaught, doesn't it?
Recommendation for PAC 2 vote:
-Approve with conditions
CLICK HERE FOR MINUTES OF THE COCO PRESENTATION TO PAC
PAC 3 - 5 The applicants (Boardwalk Properties) are requesting approval of a plan of condominium to permit the conversion of existing apartments (144 units in total) to condominium tenure.
There's a reason these property management companies are attempting to change all these apartments over to condominium tenure, and that is $$$. With today's real estate market, and the fact that anyone with a job can borrow money, home ownership is going up along with apartment vacancies. Yet, not everyone has a job nor can everyone buy a home. Condo conversions can price low-income residents out of the market and drive them out of the community, widening the affordability gap. There has been a growing demand that these prospective condominium owners set aside a certain percentage of units as affordable units and guarantee that they stay in the rental market for low-income residents.
These conversions also remove much needed dollars from municipal coffers. Multi-residential buildings now pay a 3.3% tax rate, but if converted the subject buildings would pay only the residential rate of 1.07% – a rate reduction of more than two-thirds. Our municipal funds are already stretched to the point of breaking, without condoning these residential tax evasions.
However, we here at SDW understand the importance of promoting higher density residential living and the fact that it impacts our municipal infrastructure a lot less than sprawling single family residential does. So, with a few tweaks - namely providing for an affordable housing component and repealing this tax break - we could get behind these proposals. The city would be headed to the OMB, however, to establish this tax-break precedent.
Obviously, this recommendation is based upon the theoretical ideals of conversions. There may be site-specific reasons for PAC to deny the applicants altogether.
Recommendation for PAC 3 - 5 vote:
-Approve with conditions