Greater Sudbury city council’s final decision on a contentious retirement complex on Algonquin Road has been deferred to Oct. 10.
A divided city council made the decision in a narrow vote of 7-5 on Sept. 26. The missing vote was that of Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, the lone member to attend the meeting virtually.
Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh introduced the motion to defer, noting the planning committee made its decision on the matter the previous night.
“I’d like to give (city council as a whole) the time to review it,” she said.
At issue is a 150-unit, six-storey seniors complex at the southeast corner of Algonquin Road and Rockwood Drive, which the planning committee of city council greenlit in a vote of 3-1 during a meeting on Sept. 25.
Approximately 50 area residents attended Tom Davies Square in a show of solidarity against the proposal during the Sept. 25 meeting, with 14 speaking up during a public hearing. More than 100 letters of opposition were submitted regarding the proposal, and a petition objecting to the project carried 848 signatures.
They expressed concern about the proposed building’s height of 21 metres, traffic impacts, flood zone implications and the potential clear-cutting of trees, including those in a vegetative buffer.
City administration recommended paring the build down to four storeys, but a successful amendment by Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, supported by Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre and Ward 4 Coun. Pauline Fortin bumped it back up to six.
Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, who also serves as planning committee chair, voted against the amendment, and Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann missed the vote.
Greater Sudbury city council as a whole was anticipated to ratify the committee decision on Sept. 26, until McIntosh introduced a motion to defer it to Oct. 10.
Her motion to defer a final decision appeared as contentious as Leduc’s push to increase the proposed building’s height to six storeys.
“We’ve got a builder here that wants to move forward and start building, and by us deferring a decision that we made at planning yesterday is sending a signal to the developers,” Leduc said.
“I want to be clear to the public that we’re open for business, people. We’re going to allow you to build, and that’s what we need. We need growth and we need housing in this city, and this is a development that’s badly needed.”
Also working in support of opposing a deferral is the public hearing process itself, which is intended to cap the flow of information.
Following the Sept. 26 public hearing, members of city council must “not receive or circulate written or oral submissions from the applicant, appellant or any other person that were not already presented during the hearing,” city solicitor and clerk Eric Labelle clarified to city council.
While addressing that city council does have the final decision on committee recommendations, and is able to override them, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre also asked, “Why do we have committees, then, if that can happen?”
The Sept. 25 public hearing was also the second such hearing for the project, with the first held earlier this year, and associated reports have been available to city council members since that time. The latest round of information, available to city council members several days prior to the Sept. 25 meeting, included a handful of updates, such as a traffic impact brief, additional letters of opposition from area residents and the staff recommendation to reduce it to four storeys in height.
Alongside giving city council members more time to consider their final decision, another key argument in favour of the deferral is that whether city council made a decision on Sept. 26 or Oct. 10 is largely irrelevant.
“This has literally no impact on the timeline of the development,” Cormier said during the Sept. 26 meeting, noting the project is in a holding pattern for the next several weeks, and can’t proceed until a stormwater management report has been submitted and approved by the city and Conservation Sudbury.
The report is waiting on the results of an new Algonquin subwatershed review, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of the year.
With McIntosh’s motion a success, city council will now make a final decision on the retirement complex during their Oct. 10 meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. The meeting can be viewed in-person at Tom Davies Square or livestreamed by clicking here.
How city council voted on the deferral, which passed by a narrow vote of 7-5:
- Mayor Paul Lefebvre: Yes
- Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti: Yes
- Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini: N/A
- Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier: No
- Ward 4 Coun. Pauline Fortin: No
- Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent: No
- Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre: Yes
- Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée: No
- Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer: Yes
- Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh: Yes
- Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormer: Yes
- Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc: No
- Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann: Yes
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.