A public meeting to consider the application for approval of a draft plan of a subdivision planned for the north-eastern edge of Vankleek Hill took place on Thursday, May 28.

Those who had registered to be part of the meeting either participated in the Zoom virtual meeting or called in via telephone. The meeting had been advertised as a meeting that would be livestreamed via the township’s Youtube channel (Information Champlain), but technical difficulties meant that the meeting was not livestreamed. (The recording of the meeting is now posted on the township’s Youtube channel.)

The May 28 public meeting replaced an April 9 public meeting which was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The proposed subdivision would include 272 lots (213 single-detached units and 118 semi-detached dwellings). All residential units would be served by the municipal water and sanitary sewer networks. The land under consideration is located on currently vacant land to the east of Stanley Street; Higginson Street would be extended and some of the subdivision lots would abut Higginson Street, which would provide access points to the subdivision, as well as Farmers Avenue and Home Avenue. Higginson Street and Farmers Avenue are currently dead-end streets.

The entire application (Project 050-S-20-001) can be found on the United Counties of Prescott and Russell website here.

Minimal environmental impacts are expected, according to studies done as part of the application.

The subdvision would abut the rear yards of Stanley Street residents. It was announced at the public meeting that the project would roll out in phases, with Phase 1 consisting of 39 lots and Phase 2 consisting of 40 lots. There will be a storm management system in place — a collection pond to collect water to mitigate the outflow from heavy rainfall events.

Councillors asked questions before the meeting was opened to questions or participation from members of the public, who had to pre-register to be part of the electronic meeting.

Vankleek Hill Councillor Peter Barton wanted to know about the ongoing development of the subdivision.

Saying that he understood the current development to be primarily for single residential homes and low density residential development, Barton asked, “Could the developer change into row housing, going forward?”

Champlain Township senior planner Jennifer Laforest said that current planning generally leans toward a mix of housing which is more sustainable with more housing opportunities, and said that the developer has expressed an interest in row housing for future development, but added that council would have more oversight on when and how that happens in the future.

Councillor Violaine Tittley referred to a document which included population density comparisons submitted by a resident.

“If 7.8 residents per hectare is what exists now and the new subdivision will be 30.4 residents per hectare — that is a huge change, if the numbers are correct,” she said, in the character of the community. Is this what we want, she asked.

“I also wonder where the population will come from. And there is no provision for community green space,” Titley said. Part of the cross-country ski trail passes right through the area, she added, mentioning also that the noise of the rail line, which could increase, she pointed out.

“I will do my best to answer these questions. Regarding the density, this is an interesting part of the application. The density is prescribed by the zoning bylaw and smaller lots are more efficient and so the intent is to be very efficient within the village and to create walkable neighbourhoods,” Laforest said. “That does entail a certain amount of density,” she continued.

The density is intentional and is policy driven, Laforest said, although the developer could “play with that”, she said.

Although Champlain Township is in an area where the population is growing, the Vankleek Hill population has been in a slight decline.

Ontario is growing and other municipalities are growing at eight per cent like in Clarence-Rockland or five per cent like Ottawa, she said.

Laforest pointed out that the planning act allows developers to provide land for green space or pay five per cent in cash to a municipality to support other green spaces.

As for the rail line, Laforest said that the noise and vibration study contained information about that, which indicated the noise would not be as serious as was first thought and added that the municipality would definitely pay closer attention to that.

Developer Yvon Blais was part of the virtual meeting and pointed out that he had been living in Vankleek Hill for the past 15 years. He related that he had initiated discussions with members of the Ski Vent Clic cross-country ski trail organization and that they were making plans to retain the trail and create a parking lot for users to make it more accessible and that further — there were plans to make the trail useable during the off-winter season as a pedestrian cycling trail. Blais said they wanted the trail to be an asset for residents.

Blais also pointed out that market studies pointed to the need for lots and homes in Vankleek Hill. There is a need, he said. But there are no options for people who want to move here.

Higginson Street resident Julia Beaudoin said she had concerns about the density and the construction noise which she said would be stressful for people living nearby.

“I am not opposed to welcoming new people in Vankleek Hill,” she said, but added that it looks like the plan is not conforming to “what we have now. It looks more like Barrhaven,” she said.

Laforest said that the traffic and construction are being reviewed by the counties and said that the construction access would likely be from a location which could access the entire site.

Louise Sproule, who lives on Higginson Street, said she supports the subdivision proposal, but wants to be sure it will include features that benefit the community. She had submitted two documents to the meeting. One was a population density projection, comparing the projected population of the completed development with the existing population density of the town.

Vankleek Hill currently has 856 residences, with 2.1 persons per household, according to the 2016 census from Statistics Canada. The new development would include 331 residences and at the 2.1-person-per-household ratio, would equal 695.1 persons.

The new development is 22.822 hectares while the ward of Vankleek Hill encompasses 223 hectares. The existing number of residents per hectare is now at 7.812, but the new subdivision will house 30.45 residents per hectare.

The overall population increase to the ward of Vankleek Hill would be 39.9 per cent, according to Sproule’s document and that additional population would dwell in 10.23 per cent of the ward’s area.

Sproule’s letter advocated for a different subdivision plan, with walkable access and a street layout in keeping with the existing community of Vankleek Hill.

“I am in favour of subdivisions, and I’m in favour of this subdivision,” said Sproule during the public input portion of the meeting.

She explained that there is a need for more housing in the community and quoted Statistics Canada information stating that between 2011 and 2016, the population of Vankleek Hill decreased by 2.6 per cent but that the decrease is unlikely to continue.

“I think it’s inevitable that people will want to live here,” Sproule said.

She added that it cannot be unexpected that no one will want to move to or develop in a community that has made so much effort to make itself attractive to new investment and residents.

Sproule said a way to work together on the different concerns associated with the proposed subdivision should be found.  She was pleased that it is not to be built all at once, but rather in phases. She also suggested that it be a walkable community, which means constructing sidewalks.  Sproule added that green space and an attractive appearance that reflects the rest of Vankleek Hill should also be included.

“If we have more people living here, I think it’s a wonderful thing; I just want it to be a good thing,” Sproule said.

Pendleton Street resident Josée Marin said that she is a member of “Vankleek Hill Friends of the Forest” and said that the meeting and process were not transparent to residents who do not have internet.

She claimed that the population of Vankleek Hill would be doubled and said that residents live in Vankleek Hill because they love the village.

Marin said that wildlife would be affected by the development and said it was reckless to create a development like this. She referred to recent improvements to the water and sewage system of Vankleek Hill and questioned whether the systems would meet the norms of the provincial ministry given the extra volume generated by the additional development.

Andrée Paquette worried about the cachet of Vankleek Hill and said that people did not know about the project, which she said would require a lot of reflection on the part of councillors.

Laforest said that the municipality did not just follow the rules when it came to public notification, but it did more than that, including posting notices at the site, publishing notices in the newspaper, on the township’s website and using its own social media platforms to publicize the proposed subdivision.

Andy Perreault said that he was heartbroken about the subdivision and said that green spaces were disappearing and that environmentally, this development would be detrimental to ecosystems which are being destroyed at a large rate.

“The bottom line .. of this project is that Vankleek Hill will lose its magic. There will be too much traffic . . .  this project is too big,” Perreault said.

Julia Beaudoin asked an additional question about how the phases would take place.

Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel said that there would be 40 to 50 homes per phase, pending approvals of municipalities and the counties.

A traffic impact study conducted by the developer examined the four main access points. Two accesses would be onto Main Street at Stanley Avenue and Farmers Avenue, and two accesses onto Highway 34: at Higginson Street and at Perreault Street. An analysis was conducted using 2019 traffic counts and at the year 2035, when the completion of the subdivision is expected, and at the year 2040, which represents five years beyond completion. Peak morning and afternoon hours were studied.

All intersections should operate at an acceptable level of service for the expected traffic at year 2040. But the study, prepared by D. J. Halpenny & Associates, does recommend examining the possibility of an exclusive left turn lane or shared back-to-back left turn lane at the Highway 34/Perreault Street intersection due to the increase in development within the community and along Highway 34. The left turn lane warrant analysis for a southbound left turn lane determined that a left turn lane is warranted at the 2040 peak morning and afternoon hours. The left turn lane warrant would be triggered by a safety issue of a southbound left turning movement and high volume of through-traffic in the southbound left/through/right lane.  The trip generation analysis determined that the subdivision would generate 46 vehicles entering and 138 vehicles exiting the site during the weekday peak morning hour for a total of 184 vehicle trips and 154 vehicles entering and 91 vehicles exiting during the peak afternoon hour for a total of 245 vehicle trips.

Noise and vibration

The noise and vibration assessment does point out possible sound issues, related to specific lots in the proposed subdivision, due to proximity to a nearby rail line. The report states that the critical outdoor living area would include the backyard of the residential lots located closest to the railway, in particular lot 255. For lots 245 to 257, predicted noise levels do not meet the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) guidelines for indoor living areas. This applies only to the lots identified as they would act as a barrier for the subsequent row of houses located across the proposed street.

The report, prepared by Lascelles Engineering and Associations Limited, is suggesting that a warning clause be provided to any purchasers of the affected lots and or homes, indicating that, “This dwelling unit has been designed with the provision for adding central air conditioning at the occupant’s discretion. Installation of central air conditioning by the occupant in low and medium density developments will allow windows and exterior doors to remain closed, thereby ensuring that the indoor sound levels are within the sound level limits of the Municipality and the Ministry of the Environment.”

The report goes on to suggest that good workmanship, especially with regard to the building envelope and the installation of windows and doors, can reduce and attenuate noise levels inside the building.