The rezoning application first came to a public meeting on April 3. The property is currently zoned rural residential and environmental protection and the church was requesting a zoning of residential type 1 exception and environmental protection. The rezoning was a condition of the purchase of the property by the church.
The gym at the site had started as a home-based business, with the owners eventually applying for a minor variance to increase the size.
At the April 3 meeting, numerous Harmony Road residents expressed concerns including those about noise, traffic, overflow parking, snowplowing and drainage from the property’s parking lot, which would have increased in size in order to accommodate the church.
The committee deferred the issue to a May 1 public meeting, awaiting the completion of a site plan for the application. At the May 1 meeting, residents reiterated concerns, including about drainage. With the building’s maximum occupancy of 140 people, regulations require that a minimum of 35 parking spots be created.
The issue was deferred again, to a public meeting June 5. It had also been recommended that the applicant obtain a traffic brief from the Ministry of Transportation, though to the township’s knowledge, that report had not been prepared and submitted by the applicant.
“The fact we’ve had three public meetings shows you how inclusive this process has been,” Dysart planning director Patricia Martin told a room full of Harmony Road residents at the outset of the June 5 meeting. “It has been a thorough process.”
“This municipality has to accept any application,” Martin said, adding those applications are then evaluated using the Planning Act.
Residents of the road were once again prepared with statements and new information they believed made the case the church should not be located on their road.
“Thanks Pat for addressing the role of the municipality,” said Deputy-reeve and committee chairwoman Andrea Roberts. “Our job is to make a recommendation. We are not a decision-making body.”
Roberts also told the crowd she’d like to address some misconceptions that had shown themselves during the process. “Language like it’s a done deal . . . and I take a little offence to that,” she said. “Please have faith in the process.”
Roberts then told the room the committee would be making a recommendation against the church’s application. She said she’d asked herself if she’s want up to 50 cars driving down her street on Sunday morning.
“And the answer’s no, I wouldn’t,” she said. “Regardless of what the MTO says, I do feel the traffic would have a negative impact. It comes down to compatibility in your neighbourhood. I feel it is not a fit.”
Committee member Councillor Nancy Wood-Roberts said it was her job to represent the neighbourhood and that the only people the committee had heard speak in favour of the application were the applicants.
“I did say, at one point, that I’d support the neighbourhood,” Wood-Roberts said. “The congregation was represented by just two people.”
She said she didn’t think the church had demonstrated the need for the facility. “Other than the applicant, there was nobody in favour,” Roberts said. The committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to Dysart et al council for consideration at a June 26 meeting.