Revised plans for a controversial subdivision in Kingston’s west end will head to the planning committee next week amid lingering concerns from area residents and the district councillor.
“My concern is about the noise from the trains. There will be few trees retained between the tracks and the backyards of the homes,” said Coun. Lisa Osanic.
The woodland property earmarked for development is located on the northwest corner of Bath Road and Bayridge Drive, and is wedged between the existing neighbourhood to the north and the main CN railway tracks to the south.
The developer wants to build 45 houses on the last pocket of vacant land in the area. The 5.6-hectare (13.8-acre) sloping woodland is located off Graceland Avenue. The low-density residential subdivision plan also features a small park, a walkway and a new road connecting the subdivision to Forest Hill Drive and Graceland Avenue, which both run off Lincoln Drive.
“Approximately 34 per cent of the site will be developed for a stormwater pond, parkland, roads, and a walkway. Approximately 66 per cent of the site will be developed for residential uses,” according to a planning rationale study by the developer.
The initial development application unveiled in 2012 triggered a strong community backlash during a public meeting. Many area residents complained the development will lead to increased traffic, lower property values, reduced quality of life and a loss of wildlife in the area. Similar concerns were voiced at another public meeting in 2017.
Residents urged the developer to scale back the number of single-family homes proposed for 655 Graceland Ave., currently a dead end street that was named by the former Kingston Township in honour of Elvis Presley’s famous estate.
The revised development has eight fewer houses than what was initially announced a few years ago.
Coun. Osanic, who also serves on the planning committee, says a reduction in the number of houses does not address the new neighbourhood’s proximity to the busy CN line. The backyards will be situated about 30 metres from the tracks.
“The loss of the trees in the development when the homes are built will make the sound of the trains carry further north of the tracks to the abutting subdivisions. Trees are really good sound insulators and most of the trees will be lost.”
During the public meetings, that concern was addressed with a fence that will be built on top of a berm. However, Coun. Osanic questioned whether the 18-foot tall sound barrier will be high enough to shield the noise of passing trains.
“Since the buffer between the tracks and the backyards will be below the grade of the homes, as far as I learned at the public meetings, I don’t see how the berm will be able to be higher than the upstairs windows.”
Coun. Osanic added: “Not everyone wants to sleep with their windows closed in the summer time.”
City planners are expected to recommend to the planning committee March 7 that the housing project proceed, along with a warning about train noise being added to the purchase of homes and also in the Landowner’s Information Package for the subdivision.
Despite the measures, the Collins Bayridge district councillor predicts the subdivision will become a focus of complaints for years to come and will re-ignite a debate about the city implementing a night-time train whistle ban in the city’s west end.
“The city knows that Transport Canada will allow a ban only if the CN main line is fenced off on both sides from Coronation Boulevard to Tanner Drive,” Coun. Osanic explained.
Staff estimated in a 2014 report that it would cost over a million dollars to fence off the rail corridor in the west end, she added.
According to a subdivision report prepared for the developer — a numbered company owned by Lou Vadala, Scott Elo and Jimmy Colden that is represented by Ainley Graham and Associates Ltd. — the future houses are compatible in size with existing neighbourhood homes and comply with the city’s infill and urban intensification policies.
The study also says through-traffic should not be a problem.
“It should be noted that vehicles wishing to access Bayridge Drive will have no reason to pass through the subject lands as there is no proposed direct road connection from the new development to Bayridge Drive.”
City planners have stated they have no further concerns about noise issues and the conservation authority says the proposed development is not expected to have any significant impact on the white-tailed deer, which are often sighted on the sloping field property.