At its May 31 meeting, Hawkesbury council rejected a zoning by-law amendment (ZBA) required for the construction of four, eight-unit townhouse buildings near the intersection of Chartrand Avenue and Omer Street. The property is presently zoned as Open Space (OS) and R3 zoning is required for the townhouse development.

A public meeting on the ZBA was held on May 6 and numerous concerns were expressed by area residents over traffic and protection of a nearby creek. The town also received more than two dozen written objections from residents.

During the May 31 meeting, Councillor Robert Lefebvre noted many people spoke at the May 6 public meeting and some had difficulty following or participating online. Lefebvre highlighted the nature of the concerns expressed by the residents.

“It’s very important that we have green space,” he said.

“We’re talking about complaints with traffic, noise, and parking,” Lefebvre added.

Lefebvre said principles in development need to be balanced and that the character of the proposed project should be changed.

“I have difficulties supporting the zoning changes as proposed,” concluded Lefebvre.

Councillor Yves Paquette said the property is not the right place for the development, but it is unfortunate because it is a residential project which Hawkesbury needs. He said his opposition is based on what residents have said. Paquette noted that if the proposal was for single-family, detached homes, there would not likely have been as much opposition or debate about the proposal.

Councillor Lawrence Bogue said the townhouses are the sort of density development the province wants in its planning policies.

Referring to concerns about emergency exit access, Bogue said a similar development on Montcalm Street only has one exit via Cécile Boulevard and that Montcalm Street is a dead-end.

Councillor Raymond Campbell disagreed. “Look at it on Google, it’s bigger than what we’re talking about here,” he said to Bogue

Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis, said Chartrand Avenue was to be extended to Main Street, which would have allowed for another exit.

Tsourounakis said he understands concerns of residents but was supportive of the zoning amendment.

“That’s the cost of development sometimes,” he said. “I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.”

Tsourounakis did acknowledge the development does not fit in with the character of rest of neighbourhood and agreed with Paquette’s comments that if single family homes were being proposed, there would not likely be a discussion.

Paquette insisted that even with the Chartrand extension, there would only be one exit. Tsourounakis noted there were about 125 homes in the area and said he has lived in the neighbourhood for 10 years and the are now contains more homes.

Tsourounakis said traffic or other concerns could be addressed with speed bumps and other site plan controls.

Lefebvre questioned from going from OS to R3 zoning and felt it was too drastic.

“Site plan control will not do anything in terms of development, except for the exterior,” he said.

Campbell expressed concerns about the nearby creek. “If you change the natural course of a river, it’s not a natural course.”

Mayor Paula Assaly said it was a difficult decision for her to make, but as mayor she must act in the interest of all of the municipality. She supported the zoning amendment.

In a registered vote, Councillors Campbell, André Chamaillard, Lefebvre, and Paquette voted against the zoning by-law amendment, defeating it four to three. Assaly, Bogue, and Tsourounakis voted in favour.

Following the meeting, Assaly expressed regret over the amendment being defeated.

“Hawkesbury is lacking all sorts of dwelling and this shortage is impacting our chances of attracting a much-needed work force because people cannot find a place to stay,” the mayor said. “I am disappointed with the result because the town is in dire need of dwellings and we just lost the chance of getting 32 units which resemble the units on Montcalm Street.”

Assaly noted there are more than 64 units at the Montcalm Street development.

Satellite image of area of proposed townhouse development near Chartrand Avenue and Omer Street in Hawkesbury. Town of Hawkesbury planning documents.