Councillors Want a Reconsideration on Whitelaw Development Vote

Two city councillors want their colleagues to take a second look at a proposed development on Whitelaw Road that was rejected by council just last month. Councillor Mark MacKinnon didn’t get a chance to vote for the project in council, but he and Councillor Dan Gibson are hoping that they might be able to convince a majority of council to change their mind and vote for it to.

The development in question was brought to last month’s planning meeting of council for final decision after two statutory public meetings. The owner of 361 Whitelaw Road in the city’s west end wanted to build 678 units in four 8 or 9-storey apartment buildings, plus two additional 6-storey apartment buildings along with stacked, back-to-back townhouses, but council voted against the plan 3-8.

“I believe that council made the wrong decision without a strong enough planning rationale to make the decision it made,” MacKinnon told Guelph Politico Sunday.

Like Gibson, MacKinnon missed the February 10 vote on the proposed development where council expressed concern about how the development would impact area traffic, and whether there should have been more parking on the property. MacKinnon said that it seemed like emotion played a big role in council’s decision to refuse the development.

“People believe we should be making planning-level decisions with information that is not planning-level information,” MacKinnon explained. For instance, yes, the units proposed for this development aren’t affordable units, but that’s not a planning reason to refuse a development.

“When those types of things come up, they should not influence council in any way because they have nothing to do with the planning process,” he added. “Although people would love to see someone come [to council] with a massive number of affordable housing options, or supportive options, we have can’t make our planning decisions about things that are outside of our scope.”

In order to re-open a completed vote of council, a member needs to file a Notice of Motion and then secure a super-majority of nine votes in order to have a re-vote on an agenda item. Between the three original votes in favour of the Whitelaw development, plus his and Gibson’s, MacKinnon thinks that there’s at least a chance he can get the other four votes.

“There’s already one councillor I’ve talked to, and I’m not gonna reveal who, but I talked to them and they said that they made a mistake and they want to change their vote as well,” MacKinnon said. “I’ve talked to others on council, and they are very adamant about their decision. Things can change at any time, of course, with appropriate debate and feedback from the community.”

MacKinnon is used to getting feedback on development proposals because his ward gets a lot of them. “Whenever an application comes forward for Ward 6, it’s almost always going to get approved, where if it’s a different part of the city, it might not,” he said.

Development projects like 1888 Gordon Street are on MacKinnon’s mind, which he notes was not dissimilar than 361 Whitelaw with 540 units in two 14-storey towers and two 8-storey towers.

“What we approved on Gordon Street was super-dense, super-tall, and on a smaller property, and yet we’re not approving the one on Whitelaw, which is much bigger with embedded parkland. It’s not as dense, but it doesn’t measure up to what we had approved on Gordon Street,” MacKinnin said.

“As as a council member, I just looked at this particular thing and thought, ‘Wow, we gave up on 700 really good properties that we need to get on board in an area that’s not Ward 6,'” he added.

The Notice of Motion will be heard at the March 30 meeting of city council.

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