The Carlington Summit

Editor's note: Local resident Mark Lavinskas waded through hundreds of pages of documents, spoke with local politicians and bureaucrats, and attended several community meetings to fully understand the changes that are being proposed for the lands between Merivale and Clyde roads. He shares that story -- both past and present -- with Summit readers.

For those of you who are not aware of the history behind the Clyde/Merivale lands, it's a long and sordid tale. It's taken me quite some time to sort it out, and I'm still not absolutely certain that I have it all straight.

This much I am certain of: it's the property bordered by Clyde Avenue to the west, Merivale Road to the east and lies somewhere in between Baseline and Caldwell. It is aptly referred to as the Clyde/Merivale lands for this reason, and consists of about 140 acres.

In the 1980's, about 50 acres bordering Clyde Avenue was obtained by the Thomas C. Assaly company for development. The remaining 90-acre lot was purchased by the regional government to build a senior's facility, residential and commercial units.

Before proceeding any further with this story, an overall understanding of land approval is needed.

A quick lesson

Following the city council's approval of a development plan (an overview of the entire property), a draft approval of the subdivision plan is needed.

In keeping with the development plan, the subdivision plan includes the existing conditions of neighbouring properties and how any new development should be treated in relation to its surroundings. It gauges the density and relationship between residential, parkland, and commercial development, road structures and so on. It's purpose is to divide the land into smaller chunks that can then be designated for more specific use(s).

Within these new chunks, the city can then apply zoning to each. Notwithstanding building permits, etc., the zoning approval by the city is the final step for any developer to actually get anything built on the land.

Throughout this process, regional government has its say on water, storm water run off, sewage, public transit and regional road systems that will service the new development. As well, the staff and councillors receive public input that is taken into consideration when recommendations are made to council.

Anywhere along this long and winding road, any individual can file an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to have a council decision or indecision reviewed. This may include the city, the region, the developer, an organization or any resident in the community.

In essence, the OMB becomes the referee and final appeal over land use decisions whenever the interested parties disagree. The region and city recommendations weigh heavily in any OMB ruling. Therefore, any appeal that disputes these recommendations must be supported by a very strong argument.

According to the law, municipal governments are given a limited time (60 days) to respond to applications for subdivision plans, zoning, etc. Once this time is surpassed, the applicant has a right to appeal to the OMB for a ruling if he/she desires. If an application is approved by council, and no individual or organization has disputed it during the application process, there is no possibility for appeal to the OMB regarding that specific application.

Back to the Clyde/Merivale lands

In the late 1980's, Thomas C. Assaly bypassed the city and region following the customary application time limit, and sought approval of its subdivision plan directly from the OMB. During this lengthy and expensive process, many traffic impact studies, environmental studies, etc. were conducted to reveal the facts regarding this land to the OMB.

Public input was coordinated through a coalition of community associations, which voiced concerns before the board. In the meantime, the region's subdivision plan for its 90 acres bordering Merivale was draft-approved by the region. In March of 1992, the OMB handed down its ruling (draft approval of subdivision) regarding the land specific to the 50 acres owned by Thomas C. Assaly.

The OMB ruling

Among other things, the ruling considered the communities' concerns regarding cut through traffic in the new development. In an attempt to be fair and equitable, it stated that access to the 50 acres owned by Assaly should empty out at a new intersection at Clyde and Maitland. The land that surrounds that intersection is currently owned by Industry Canada and houses offices for Communications Canada.

The region's land was already designed to be serviced by a collector loop road that would empty onto Merivale Road. This loop road would be shaped like a horseshoe, and intersect Merivale at two different points.

Furthermore, the OMB ruling stated that a transit-only link should be built between the region's and Assaly land. This transit-only link would be equipped with automated traffic barriers to accommodate OC Transpo vehicles and prevent any other type of cut through traffic from gaining direct access from Clyde to Merivale. The ruling also encompassed the handling of storm water from the new development. In conjunction with the region's land, the Assaly land would connect to a storm water pond that would be designed to treat the storm water run off from the entire 140 acre development. The design would incorporate all Ministry of Environment standards and be erected with the approval of the region. This pond was to be placed within the loop road that connected to Merivale Road. The purpose of the pond is to treat storm water and prevent further pollution from entering the Ottawa River system.

Ashcroft buys more land

Fast forward to late 1996: the region no longer has a need to build a senior's facility and is not collecting revenue on this valuable piece of property.

The 90-acre property is sold to Ashcroft Homes which gets quick zoning approval and begins to build Phase I of its new development. As a cost-saving measure, the storm water is treated in this development phase through a temporary baffle system until the proper storm water pond can be built.

Today, the storm water pond has not been built nor even designed, and yet Ashcroft hopes to proceed further with its development phases.

To ensure that Ashcroft builds the storm water pond in a timely manner, regional councillor Wendy Stewart has had council remove delegated authority from staff on this issue. Ashcroft cannot proceed with any construction in its new phase without first designing the pond, having it approved by the Ministry of Environment, consulting with regional staff and having it approved by regional council.

A big box store?

Last October, Ashcroft Homes met with the Carlington community at the Alexander Community Centre to discuss its proposal for a large retail facility (82,000 sq. ft.) on Merivale Road. The proposal requires some residential lands to be re-zoned commercial.

The community voted overwhelmingly against it, and directed the city planners to allow only a retail establishment that would service the new development. Although city council has still not voted on this issue, city staff have recommended that this proposal be refused.

Since Ashcroft already knows the fate of its application, it has filed an appeal with the OMB. Without support from city or regional staff, or the community at large, the developer is expected to lose its appeal.

Another land buy

The owner and president of Ashcroft Homes, David Choo, recently announced that his company has indirectly purchased the land formerly owned by Assaly (just west of Central Park, near Clyde Avenue). The closing date for the land deal is June.

If it closes, Ashcroft Homes will become the sole developer for the entire 140 acres. As a result of the change in ownership, Ashcroft has asked for and received an extension to its subdivision application to December 31, 1998.

All traffic onto Merivale

Ashcroft's new subdivision plan includes the former Assaly land. The plan extends the internal loop road from Merivale Road further into the development, and effectively cuts off any vehicle traffic access to Clyde Avenue. The OMB had ruled that any subdivision plan must have an intersection at Clyde and Maitland.

Ashcroft claims that the Industry Canada land surrounding that intersection cannot be made available for at least two years. Other sources say, however, that Communications Canada is anxious to move as its sensitive scientific equipment is compromised near this development. If a suitable building is made available, the government has said it will vacate the premises immediately. If the proposed intersection at Clyde and Maitland doesn't get built, the Industry Canada land may be used for a proposed large retail store. In exchange for acceptance of this new plan, Ashcroft has offered to turned its proposed 70,000-square-foot retail store into two 35,000-square-foot stores.

Carlington Community Association - Annual General Meeting

The Ashcroft issue is expected to be a high priority at the Carlington Community Association annual general meeting. The meeting will be held at the Alexander Community Centre - 960 Silver Street (just off Shillington) on Monday April 20 at 7:30 p.m.

All community residents are welcome to join the association, vote for the new directors and president, and take part in the discussion. Local politicians are expected to be in attendance.