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Alcona growth plans evolving

Miriam King

The future of imminent growth in and around Alcona just got a little murkier.

Town council's committee of the whole meeting Wednesday evening was supposed to be the final presentation of the revised Official Plan Amendment #1 (OPA 1), and a last chance for the public to comment before councillors passed a bylaw adopting it.

Instead, council dropped a bombshell and sent the document back to consultants Sorensen Gravely Lowes, asking for the implications of redrawing the future boundaries, dropping the proposed expansion in Alcona north and instead redirecting all expansion to Alcona south, an area south of Innisfil Beach Road.

Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope proposed a resolution, removing Areas 1 and 2 (areas on Line 9 east of Sideroad 20) from the amendment (see accompanying graphic) and adding Areas 7 and 8 (both south of Line 6) - but was persuaded by Coun. Lynn Dollin to first refer the proposal back to the consultants and staff.

"There's not an engineer or a planner among us. We need more advice," she said.

At an earlier meeting, Wauchope had put forward a resolution which excluded Area 8 and included Area 7 instead, a resolution which was approved by council but not reflected in the revised Official Plan amendment.

At Wednesday night's meeting, he went one step further and said he'd like to see residential development concentrated between the 4th and 8th lines, and drop expansion plans for Alcona north.

"My vision is to have one community, continuing all the way from the 4th Line to Innisfil Beach Road providing continuous development that would promote use of the GO Train station, a new heritage village retail area, and the commercial core of both Innisfil Beach Road and Lefroy, rather than develop to the 5th Line, then skip a line," he said after the meeting.

"I think we have (to get) the flooding problem fixed in Belle Ewart," Wauchope said. "I think this helter-skelter jumping from one line to the other line ... is wrong."

He noted that continuous development would "be handy, if we ever get busing."

Although, in the short term, Wauchope's proposal would exclude Areas 1 and 2 from the urban expansion area, in the long term, he said, "I'm hoping once they sit down and figure it all out, all the areas can get in."

Don Pratt is hoping for the same thing.

The president of Pratt Developments said Alcona needs to have balanced growth on both the north and the south side of Innisfil Beach Road.

His proposed Alcona Commerce Park development, located at the south-east corner of Sideroad 20 and Line 9, would include extensions of Webster Boulevard and Leslie Street. "If all areas take a bit more scrutiny, we have no problem with that. I encourage that. The best plan will go forward," he said. "It's going to come down to servicing. We've done our studies and that area can be serviced easily and quickly.

"When staff gets back to council, (they will find) it will meet the tests it has to meet," Pratt said, adding, "we want to continue to grow and prosper and make Alcona a better place."

During the meeting, Cortel Group spokesperson Terry Geddes noted that Area 7 (south east of Sideroad 20 and Line 6) was excluded from the plans.

Consultant Paul Lowes had excluded the lands based on distance from water supply, existing areas of development and the commercial core, and size, adding that the extra acreage would be harder to defend, at the provincial or Ontario Municipal Board levels.

Geddes told the meeting that it was "imperative" that Area 7 be included, for "net public good" and from an engineering standpoint.

Cortel's development plans for the area include stormwater management works which, he said, could finally provide a solution to flooding in the Belle Ewart area.

It was an argument that carried weight with councillors. "I was truly disappointed that Area 7 was taken out," said Coun. Bill Van Berkel. "I guess Mr. Lowes never lived in an area that floods four, five times a year.

Instead of passing a motion approving the Official Plan amendment and proposing adoption on March 18, council asked staff to report back on the implications of the changes, the costs of extending services, and the net benefit of the area blocks being considered for flood control.

Dollin noted that there had been discussion of planning issues, water and wastewater servicing, "but not a lot on storm water management, and to me that's the issue tonight.

"Let's make sure we know it's going to work."

Town CAO Larry Allison said staff was trying to sort out the technical information requested by council.

With the town's Official Plan and county Official Plan still being reviewed by the province and under appeal at the OMB, Allison called the amendment "a critical piece to have in the hopper at this time".

However, he said it may take time to generate the information requested. "I think it's important that the technical analysis be defensible, in terms of appeal. It has to withstand potential appeals by third parties," Allison said.

Robert McAuley, director of planning and development, confirmed that no further public meetings are required on the Official Plan amendment since.

"The debate and question focused on which combination of parcels to include, but did not add any new lands that were not already presented at the December public meeting," he said.

He suggested that the earliest the information will be coming back to council is April 1.