An odyssey now nearly five years long, the file on a proposed residential building for seniors took a step closer to being closed during a case management conference at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) this morning. A settlement between the City of Guelph and the developer, Rykur Holdings, will end one part of the appeal, and now all parties will see if they can resolve the other part.
“The settlement involves a withdrawal by Riker Holdings Inc. of their application and appeal with respect to the proposed Official Plan Amendment that is before the Tribunal, so that the only matter before the Tribunal would be the zoning appeal,” explained Peter Pickfield, counsel for the City of Guelph.
The story starts in 2016 when Rykur brought a zoning bylaw amendment for a five-storey development on the property of the old tennis court next the Basilica of Our Lady. A portion of the available units in the proposed building were intended to be reserved for affordable housing, and the request from Rykur came with a certain urgency because of potential Federal funding for the development.
Council ultimately declined the application, which resulted in the first appeal to the then-Ontario Municipal Board. The development then came back to council in February 2018, and was mostly unchanged from the original proposal. Council again refused to approve the project at five-storeys with renewed and vigorous advocacy against the project from a neighbourhood association called the Guelph Old City Residents Association, and the Upper Grand District School Board, whose Central Public School would butt directly up against the finished apartment building.
The proposed settlement will see Rykur remove their application and the appeal of council’s previous decision to refuse their request for a five-storey building in an area where only a maximum of four-storeys is permitted. The City in turn would agree to a couple of small variances on the project, while the appeal of the re-zoning of the 75 Dublin property will proceed.
“There was agreement that the interior side yard setback of the property could be reduced by 1.5 meters from 4.5 meters to three meters, and there was a agreement on a small adjustment to the parking requirement for guest parking to bring it into line with the current rules around parking for guests in the downtown area Official Plan,” Pickfield said.
“I can just confirm that my client will be withdrawing the OPA as a term of the settlement, and again, just to reiterate, the request for that fifth storey will not be in play any longer,” confirmed Shelley Kaufman, the counsel for Rykur.
Wednesday’s announcement represented a quick turnaround on the case because the settlement proposal was only just approved on Monday night in a closed session.
“It was only yesterday that the minutes of settlement were executed and circulated to the parties,” Pickfield said referring to the school board and the resident’s association. “In light of that, I think the City would have a desire to create an opportunity for the other parties to see if there could be discussions around resolving the zoning matter in light of the settlement that has been reached with the City. ”
Pickfield proposed another case management conference at least 30 days from now, but there was some immediate skepticism about how fast all the parties could meet again.
Alan Heisey, the counsel for the school board, explained that the next meeting of the trustees was scheduled for the end of August, and it will be focused on back to school concerns. Heisey also explained that his client will have notes about the proposed settlement that might require approval from the other parties before proceeding.
“If there is a resolution found, it will probably need some changes, and they would have to be endorsed by city council,” Heisey explained. “So I believe we have the interplay of the school board, the possibility that there might be changes to the settlement, which will then involve a need for re-examination by city council to approve what other other changes Mr. Flett and I might seek and that the owner might agree to make, and I can’t see that happening before the end of October.”
Ian Flett, who is the counsel for the neighbourhood association, said that his client is not as bound by scheduling restraints as the other parties in the appeal, but was supportive of giving the school board the additional time they need. “We don’t quite have the same rigor in terms of the schedule as the school board does, but we do understand the school board’s concerns and are supportive of those concerns,” Flett said.
Heisey also asked for some assurance of the transparency of the settlement process. “I’m unclear how it is that the city council could have endorsed a settlement that isn’t conditional on the agreement of either my client or Mr. Flett’s, and is not publicly available to the school board community, or the residents of the City of Guelph,” he said.
Pickfield assured the tribunal and the other attorneys that the settlement would be made available to anyone that asked for it, and that it’s a public document. “The City is entirely transparent and open about this and will make these minutes available to the public,” he said.
The City’s counsel added that he’s prepared to work with Heisey and Flett to get whatever assurances they need to create the best settlement for all parties, but there was also a note of eagerness about putting this matter in the rearview mirror. “The City is anxious to move forward with with this, it’s a matter that’s been before the Tribunal for years now, many years,” Pickfield said. “But the City also wants to recognize that the school board needs time and has its own processes to decide on how to move forward with this.”
Eventually, all parties agreed to Tuesday November 2 at 10 am for the next hearing date, which will be held again via teleconference.