Councillors have approved a new 14-storey condominium complex for Wyndham Street — although much of the discussion at city hall was around a bylaw on how developers compensate the city for parklands.
On Monday night, council voted 10-2 in favour of the London-based Tricar Group’s proposal for a 14-storey, 140-unit condo project at 71 Wyndham St. Councillors Phil Allt and James Gordon voted against, while Andy Van Hellemond was absent.
While 71 Wyndham comes in four storeys taller than what would normally be permitted under the city’s downtown secondary plan, those extra floors were allowed thanks to the province’s Planning Act.
Under that legislation, additional storeys are permitted, provided “the additional height or density is still considered to be good planning and that the owner provides an agreed upon benefit to the community.”
According to the report to council from staff, Tricar will be giving the city additional parkland dedication funds, amounting to 25 per cent of the difference in land value between the approved 14 storeys and what it would have been should it have been built at 10 storeys. More specifically, those funds would go toward acquiring riverfront parklands.
Following a question from Gordon, Andrea McCreery, a consultant from Stantec appearing on behalf of the developer for 71 Wyndham, said that none of the units for this property would be deemed affordable housing.
The proposed development was first heard by council at a public meeting in July 2017. While the number of units has stayed the same since that meeting more than a year ago, Tricar says it is now wanting commercial units on the ground floor facing Wyndham.
One delegate who appeared before council to speak on this application development was council watchdog Susan Watson, who said the city was missing out on potentially millions of dollars because it had not updated its parkland dedication bylaw.
Under the city’s parkland dedication bylaw, developers must either give a certain percentage of land, or the cash equivalent, to the municipality when constructing new residential properties.
Council had originally been slated to vote on an updated parkland dedication bylaw earlier this year, but that has been pushed until next year, with the city saying stakeholders had requested additional time to comment.
However, according to documents obtained by Watson through a Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request and included in the evening’s agenda, she said it appears it was developers that had requested the pause, saying this would lead to the city missing out on millions of dollars.
“The bigger issue for me is not just the dollar figures involved, it’s democracy,” she said.
“If you read those FOI documents, what they show is developers requested preferential meetings with staff.”
Scott Stewart, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure, development and enterprise, rejected Watson’s claims, saying that the documents do not show anything nefarious.
“There’s no backroom deals, there’s no secret meetings,” he said.
“This feels like normal correspondence.”
Stewart added that any bylaw that would come forward to council would be in draft form, not final, and that council could still make changes should it choose to do so.
Colleen Clack, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer of public services, told councillors the new parkland dedication bylaw is currently scheduled to come to council chambers at February’s committee of the whole meeting, but could be brought up to January’s meeting or at a specially called meeting.