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Council gives thumbs down to Pointe Estates

Tuesday, July 16, 2013   by: Darren Taylor

City Council, in a 7-4 recorded vote, chose not to approve the proposed Pointe Estates subdivision development at its regular meeting Monday.

It was a marathon session, which included presentations of highly detailed scientific reports by environmental professionals in favour of the project and by others who cautioned against it, comments from citizens for and against the subdivision, and questions and comments from Council to the presenters and City staff.

Developers Jeff and Patricia Avery, represented by Sault Ste. Marie lawyer Orlando Rosa and backed by a group of environmental professionals, sought Council’s approval to build a 91-lot single detached rural estate subdivision south of Pointe Aux Pins Drive, west of Dalgleish Road, north of Alagash Drive and Pointe Louise Drive.

That area is 102 hectares (252 acres) in size.

The proposed development has long been opposed by a group of residents who live near the area, known as the Pointes Protection Association, led by the group’s President Peter Gagnon.

Gagnon, a Pointe Louise Drive resident, is a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) who worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for 30 years and currently teaches part-time at Sault College.

Gagnon, with Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan-based hydrogeologist Frank Breen, made presentations Monday, along with comments from concerned area residents.

Breen stated, both in his report to Council Monday and in speaking with SooToday.com, that he is neither opposed to or in support of the development, but from a professional viewpoint, felt the project posed potential risks both to the area and nearby residents that Council needed to consider.

“The appropriate studies need to be done to avoid E. coli in the 91-lot subdivision. That information has not been provided,” Breen told Council.

The Pointes Protection Association has long maintained the development would harm the quantity and quality of the water supply in the Pointe Estates development area, including the St. Mary’s River, and therefore affect residents who live nearby.

Gagnon pointed to a 1962 decision by the Ontario government against a larger proposed project for the area, which described the wetlands area as inappropriate for development.

Gagnon stated Monday: “75 percent of the proposed lots are in Sault Ste. Marie’s flood plain,” adding the Pointe Estates subdivision would have led to loss of vegetation and wildlife typically found in the area (such as moose and deer), noise pollution (from the nearby Sault Ste. Marie Airport) and stagnant water.

The water in the area, Gagnon said, is highly susceptible to contamination.   

“It’s a huge weight off,” a clearly relieved Gagnon told SooToday.com in referring to Council’s decision.

“I think there were too many questions, too many risks to take that chance, to ruin it for the 150 people who live out there already just to support this development,” Gagnon said.

“Council acted responsibly. They took the high road,” Gagnon told us.

Voting against the proposed subdivision Monday were Mayor Debbie Amaroso and City Councillors Susan Myers, Joe Krmpotich, Marchy Bruni, Paul Christian, Rick Niro and Steve Butland.

Voting in favour were City Councillors Pat Mick, Lou Turco, Frank Fata and Brian Watkins.

City Councillors Terry Sheehan and Frank Manzo were absent.

Manzo has been a vocal opponent of the project at both City Council and Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority Board meetings. 

Councillors Christian and Niro called for a postponement of the vote, asking for further study on items such as clay depths and the possibility of stagnant water issues, but that motion was defeated in a separate 7-4 vote.

Mayor Debbie Amaroso told SooToday.com: “We asked ‘will this affect our environment?’ We heard ‘yes,’ we heard ‘no.’ I didn’t get a level of comfort that would have put me in a position to support it.”

“These were highly technical studies we heard, and you have to have a certain level of expertise to decipher the information and to come to a decision with confidence. I couldn’t come to a decision with confidence on either side, so it’s better to be cautious.”

“It was a very gut-wrenching decision,” Amaroso said.  

“It isn’t a matter of being pro-development or pro-environment.  It’s not about that. It was about the development at what cost, and were we prepared to live with those costs. That’s what the decision ultimately rested on.”

Lawyer Orlando Rosa promoted the Pointe Estates subdivision as “a showcase development” which would create construction jobs and add to the City’s tax base.

Rosa, accompanied by engineer Peter Richards of Sudbury’s Waters Environmental Geosciences Ltd. and other professionals, said no less than 21 studies had been carried out in favour of the development.

Rosa added: “You can spin this 12 different ways, but these are not provincially significant wetlands.”

While the MNR indeed classifies the area’s wetlands as “not provincially significant,” it was clear to the majority of Council the wetlands are significant enough.

Also of concern to several Councillors was the fact that the City’s Official Plan would have to have been amended for the project to proceed, along with questions of ‘who will pay’ if the Pointe Estates project had proceeded and caused environmental damage.

City Planning Director Don McConnell told Council that City staff had been careful, in writing a lengthy report recommending the project’s approval, to include no less than 12 conditions.

One of those conditions would have required the developer to provide a detailed development plan from a qualified engineer, including recommendations of studies supporting the application, and that all construction be done under the supervision of a qualified engineer under a regular monitoring program.

In the end, caution won in Council’s vote Monday.

The applicant still has the option to appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Meanwhile, a legal challenge against the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority Board’s December 2012 decision to approve the Pointe Estates application will still go to provincial court in Sudbury in October.

That legal challenge from the Pointes Protection Association, led by Sault lawyer Helen Scott, claims the Board exceeded its authority in its decision.

The Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority Board will hold its regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

Comments
40
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right wing 7/16/2013 8:37:35 AM Report

Hopefully this gets approved by the Ontario board.
Once again our city council puts the dampers on development in this city.
The list of what could have been gets longer.
Snowdon 7/16/2013 8:41:00 AM Report

Good. I'm sick of the mindset of development at all costs, regardless of where it is or what it could potentially damage. If there are concerns over environmental damage, it is short term gain for long term pain.

It's not like the Soo is in desperate need of a showy subdivision.
Mr. Poster 7/16/2013 9:05:51 AM Report

I think council made the correct decision. I am surprised that they were able to stand up to the pressure. Good for them.
ssmchic 7/16/2013 9:06:15 AM Report

Right wing - I totally agree.
sinikka 7/16/2013 9:14:26 AM Report

The not in my backyard mentality prevails. How about the extension of sunnyside beach. Did it go through the same scrutiny. Mr. Avery had the environmental specialists there with the information needed and nobody cared. This will definitely go forward but again the developers in sault ste. marie have to go through hoops and apply to the OMB .
Sam C 7/16/2013 9:20:53 AM Report

Sorry, I'm not against new development, but draining a wetland to build houses is NOT a good idea, in my opinion.

There is plenty of dry land on which to build.
guard1 7/16/2013 9:25:17 AM Report

Council turned down for the 2nd time a significant development that would of increased the city tax base. The first time was turning down the proposed queensgate development. No wonder our property taxes go up every year when they turn down developments like these. I for one will let my coucillor know about this turndown during next years tax discussions and during the elections.
Norm 7/16/2013 9:34:48 AM Report

So Sam, you would rather build on dry land than to have a beautiful high end subdivision in a most unique spot where one can jump in their boat and head out on the lakes. Gagnon's guy was very convincing,the turning point in the discussion, voting. Maybe it's the right decision, maybe it's not. Right or wrong, council protected themselves in not taking any chances that might put a black mark on a legacy that so many people in authority hold so dear to their hearts. I personally think they made the wrong choice. Instead of moving onward and upward, the city fathers decided to take a couple of steps backwards.
Wicket 7/16/2013 9:36:09 AM Report

YES!!!!! finally some councillors had the where-with-all to stand up to one group of money people of the Soo who are determined to do what they want so they can make more money for themselves and not care what the long-term cost will be to others.
How many of you would be crying with outrage had the old hospital sites been sold to an individual of the Soo who would have sub-divided and built mansions on the water for the rich and not-so-famous individuals of the Soo. Hopefully that development will be for condos and apartments for many individuals who will far outnumber a few individuals who can afford estate size lots to build on.
YES! AGAIN! - didn't realize we had some common sense on council.
blondie45 7/16/2013 9:46:24 AM Report

Thank you rightwing!!! I also can't figure out how the city can hire these out of town firms to 'develop' property, only to never be heard or seen from again (Garforth, company that bought Northern Breweries)! In this case, there is a very well-established businessman who lives directly in the area of the subdivision and is confident enough to put his reputation on the line to help the Soo prosper. It's no wonder people want to move away from here and go where communities actually WANT to attract new people and become more diverse. And we are trying to attract doctors, among others to our community? Our downtown is a joke and looks disgusting. I would never want to live downtown (Gore Street area, most of Queen/Albert St.). At least if we had this development to help attract new people to the area, there would be more jobs available for both kids and adults, there would be more ideas that people could bring to the table to make the Soo even better, and maybe, just maybe, people would actually want to stay here. If the neighbours were actually serious about wetlands, why didn't they purchase the property when it went up for sale? Everyone had the same opportunity to purchase it. Why didn't the city purchase it if they felt it was such a "significant" wetland? I think it's a little fishy that the concerns of these neighbours only came about 7 years ago (wait, that's when the development was proposed, wasn't it??). How strange? They didn't have concerns when it was for sale, nor when Mr. Avery purchased the property. I'm just sad that there are such narrow-minded people in this city, and it is unfortunate that we have several council members who lack the vision to let Sault Ste Marie thrive.
openminded13 7/16/2013 9:49:49 AM Report

Sinikka, interesting that you would state "Mr. Avery had the environmental specialists there with the information needed and nobody cared."

Did you attend the meeting or watch it on television? The opponents of the development clearly delineated a number of flaws found within the reports of Mr. Avery's environmental specialists. I'm proud that City Council recognized the issues associated with the proposed development and had the gall to stand against it. Developments SHOULD go through considerable scrutiny to ensure that they will not have longstanding environmental impacts, and the developer has not done his due diligence. The reports conducted thus far are not sufficient!
skipper dave 7/16/2013 9:51:22 AM Report

next motion - removal of all residents built on or near wetlands.
openminded13 7/16/2013 10:04:10 AM Report

Blondie45, rendering this development as a "way to attract new people, diverse people, and doctors..." to the city is actually an incredibly narrow-minded view. And naive? Do you really think that building a bunch of new homes on a dead-end canal to give them 'waterfront' property will be what attracts doctors to the Sault? Are doctors, or professionals more generally, so concerned with materialism that this is primarily what would bring them here? Or is this your only argument for why the development should move forward. If so, there are currently a number of homes available on the water near the Pointe, including 2-3 at Pointe des Chenes and Nikomas and many have been on the market for over 6 years. They are large, well developed homes with beachfronts and I don't see any doctors coming in and swooping them up.

But beyond that there are many adequate housing options for them in the City. Maybe not in the downtown core, but I highly doubt that this is the primary reason why we are having trouble attracting individuals to live and stay in the Sault...
Grace 7/16/2013 10:11:37 AM Report

This is a re-post
Good morning!
Attention all city councillors!

Congratulations on a well run and very informative council planning application meeting last night.

I watched last nights meeting with great interest on a topic that I had heard about but had little to no knowledge of the details.
Both presentations from the Avery Group and the Points protection Group were extremely informative and well presented.

After watching both presentations I felt as council did that this was an excellent idea for a development.
BUT I was left with questions.
Mr. Breen's presentation brought forward and posed details I as the average person would not have thought...not knowing spit about hydrological make up of the wetland.
His concerns raised about the structure of the bedrock and clay density and the simplicity of the testing required to answer the lingering questions raised sounded both reasonable and prudent.

I learned things about canals and dead end canals and water movement. How water tables work and how easily contamination can travel.

BUT in the end I believe that the councillors that voted against the development did so by institutionally knowing that a reasonable doubt had been raised.
Yes there were experts...but I couldn't shake the feeling of "What if they are wrong" they are only human after all.
A big congratulations to city council and staff for a very, very well done and professional meeting.
kamen 7/16/2013 10:27:30 AM Report

This is great, I am glad they do not want to move forward with the development. There are so many unused places in the city already, use those.
Resident 7/16/2013 10:38:45 AM Report

I'm surprised that council did the right thing. The studies by Avery apparently weren't convincing. If they go to the OMB I would hope they would be turned down. Doesn't sound like Avery is using due diligance. Just wants the money.
jnl 7/16/2013 10:39:11 AM Report

Good job to our city council. I do live out in the area and it would be a shame for that amount of property to be wasted for yet another estate.
For those who think it is a great idea. Are you going to be able to afford one of the homes out there. Not likely. There are plenty of new homes being build that are still sitting with for sale signs on them. Take a ride down the new part of 3rd line. There is a row of for sale signs, new subdivision going in.. How about fill those! One thing we need in this town is affordable housing.
Again, thank you city council. You have done the right thing.
sinikka 7/16/2013 10:55:22 AM Report

OPENMINDED 13 I did watch the meeting on television. And after hearing all the information what i got from the meeting is the residents in the area do not want the development even if there is no impact on the environment. Does the MNR back the project? This will be rubber stamped by the OMB , you can bet on it. I did not see the same scrutiny with the sunnyside beach extension or the crimson ridge development but then the same group that was opposing this were not as vocal about the possible environmental impact because it was not in their back yard.
openminded13 7/16/2013 11:08:18 AM Report

But what you are forgetting Sinikka is that there IS going to be an impact on the environment, which was the point of presentations by the opponents last evening. The developer has not done the appropriate studies that ensure there will not be. It is not a case of residents simply not wanting a development in their back yard - they want to ensure that the development will not detrimentally impact the surrounding area which includes the St. Mary's river.

Whether other developments underwent similar scrutiny (ie. Sunnyside or Crimson) is irrelevant. Should't we be happy that there are a large group of residents and citizens in the Sault with a vested interest in their local environment? Who have dedicated countless hours and support towards this cause, in an effort to ensure that the developer does his due diligence and proves that it will not cause irreversible harm to the natural environment? We can't turn back time on our decisions with regards to the environment. It is not something that can be repaired once developed haphazardly.
soowat 7/16/2013 11:15:59 AM Report

Grace:

Excellent comment.
sinikka 7/16/2013 11:28:39 AM Report

OPENMINDED 13, unfortunately every project has some kind of impact on the environment. 4 councillors who also heard all the information believed that the impact would be minimal and if the omb approves the project those that voted against were wrong to do so. period.
sinikka 7/16/2013 11:28:39 AM Report

OPENMINDED 13, unfortunately every project has some kind of impact on the environment. 4 councillors who also heard all the information believed that the impact would be minimal and if the omb approves the project those that voted against were wrong to do so. period.
mallet 7/16/2013 11:29:55 AM Report



I have no vested interest in this venture, so I think I can claim to be neutral. However there are 3 items that really catch my eye, No 1 is that this is low laying ground and wetlands, which gives cause to think of flooding, (see Calgary). Next is that because there is no discernable running water I.E. river streams, stagnant water breeds skeeters and other bugs, and no-one seems to want to mention that other item, septic fields. Then No3. Airport noise, why would anyone want to build near an airport beats me,for 99per cent will complain about the noise once moved in, check any airport in the world!!
For once I think the members of city council had the cojones to do the correct thing...
learningaswego 7/16/2013 11:30:14 AM Report

Most of the east end of Sault Ste. Marie is built on a former swamp, isn't it? It seems to have held up quite well.
AndyCap 7/16/2013 11:35:42 AM Report

Sounds like a bunch of cousins and newphews of City council were opposed to the idea. A Jaded and unsubstantiated opinion? Yup.
sportsfan17 7/16/2013 12:38:42 PM Report

Council made a good call.

This is all about the money for Avery, they have no interest in protecting the environment. Why do you think so many holes were poked in their "environmental experts" opinions?

If Avery really cared about helping to develop this city, they would invest in some property in the downtown to develop apartments, condo's, shopfronts, etc. so as to attract people to the downtown.

But instead, they'd prefer to turn us into Toronto and continue the trend of suburban sprawl and cookie-cutter houses in this city.. profit profit profit.. If I wanted to live in suburban sprawl, I'd be living in Toronto. You see the traffic on the 401 today? No thanks.
Vindicator 7/16/2013 12:53:12 PM Report

Not one of the 150 current residents of the area would agree that they impact the environment in any way, this is more a case of; "I have my piece of paradise, but nobody else is allowed in."

Why was an American hydrogeologist brought in to support the opponents of this development? Are there no Canadian hydrogeologists?

An Ontario government report produced fifty years ago is presented to support the opponents; well I suppose in the Sault, there has been no progress made in fifty years, technology has not advanced, therefore Council feels justified using that information to once again put the brakes on development.

Taxes are high in the Sault because the base from which to draw revenue is low and nothing is being done to change the business environment. We do not receive value for our tax dollars.

The Sault is a dying town; doesn't anyone get that?

It has absolutely nothing to offer young people in the way of employment of significant value. The only jobs available are minimum wage service industry jobs for unskilled labour and the jobs that are available outside of that industry are low paying as well.

In the ten years living here, I have watched businesses fold up, the downtown is a joke now, streets are a mess, garbage is everywhere and the crime rate is increasing.

The Mayor and Councillors lack the combined ability to turn the situation around because of their draconian mentalities and their resistance to make decisions that would allow the Sault to grow.

Progress is painful, but if it is well planned and thought out using common sense the town will become stronger.

Lack of progress is torture, you watch the town die a slow excruciating death because the young people with potential leave and new businesses do not set up here.
learningaswego 7/16/2013 1:53:55 PM Report

Vindicator - spot on.

sportsfan17 - way, way off. The proposed development = "suburban sprawl" in Toronto? really?

Developers develop WHERE people want to live, and WHAT type of housing/area they want. That's how it works. Oh yeah, and developers - just like EVERY other business, are in it to make a profit. People want something - a business provides it, and hope to make a profit doing so. That's how it works.
jnl 7/16/2013 2:16:32 PM Report

Vindicator - If the Sault is a dying town and there are no good paying jobs, I guess the best thing to do would be to build a large estate subdivision that nobody will be able to afford to live.
That doesn't make sense, do you have the $ to move out there and purchase one of these homes.
I think if you don't live in the area and you don't have the ability/funds to be able to afford this type of home then really you should have a say in it.. Like I have said before, there are plenty of new neighborhoods being created and a huge amount of BRAND NEW houses sitting vacant with for sale signs in front of them. SELL THOSE!!
Vindicator 7/16/2013 2:45:30 PM Report

@jnl, the fact there are new homes going unsold may point out that they are not building the kind of homes people want and has no bearing in a new development.

As far as being able to afford a home built in the Pointe Estates area and not having a say in the conversation.

First, I do live in the area and if they built a home that fit my demands, I could well afford it regardless of where it is built. I happen to be a person who enjoys the water and boating.

A dying town does not mean there is no money, it means that the next generation of young people are not going to stick around a place that holds no future for them and new business people are not going to invest in a city whose politicians are self serving luddites.
ssmchic 7/16/2013 2:55:30 PM Report

Vindicator & learningaswego - bang on.
learningaswego 7/16/2013 3:12:36 PM Report

Here's a novel idea for some -
1) do you think, maybe, that before investing millions in a subdivision, a developer might do some serious market study or research to see if there will be a market for the product?
2) do you think, maybe, a developer could choose to only build when they have a contract with a buyer?

If you answered "yes!", you would be right!
sarasota 7/16/2013 7:29:48 PM Report

THUMBS DOWN TO MAYOR AND COUNCILLORS WHO TURNED DOWN POINTE ESTATES.....
It's a sad, frustrating state of affairs when some people want to continue to add to their community and build a future for the next generation yet narrow-minded individuals put up roadblocks. I'm not certain why others should have the say what property owners do to their property. The estate development would be available to anyone who has the funds to pay for a lot and build the home of their dreams---not a cookie cutter subdivision. And yes, it would possibly attract newcomers---convenience of airport, a short distance to shopping, etc. That's only if the City of Sault Ste. Marie extends a warm welcome to newcomers. These roadblocks just make people want to take a detour and settle in a more inviting, openminded community.
blondie45 7/16/2013 9:38:03 PM Report

Very well said Sarasota! At the end of the day, it's about someone's personal property and what they want to do with it. Maybe Mr. Avery should just put up a solar farm like on Base Line. Maybe the neighbors would enjoy that a bit more?
Resident 7/16/2013 10:02:57 PM Report

Thumbs UP to city council. They are, for once, doing the right thing. I am sickened by the greed and how some people figure that money should buy them anything.
Norm 7/16/2013 11:49:50 PM Report

Avery is far from been greedy. He has a dream, wants to fulfil it. He and his family don't need the money. Hope he fulfils that dream.
servicepro 7/21/2013 7:56:32 PM Report

The science supports city councils decision to give this the thumbs down. Unlike the Conservation Authority Board they listened to the experts and made the right decision and are protecting the wetland and environment as well as the existing residents properties in the area. Pointes Protection are not an emotional group of people making accusations that cannot be supported. They are a group of intelligent , research supporting, tax paying citizens who won't take a back seat to a development with disasterous environmental effects. READ information provided on their webset before making comments that are based on emotions. (Pointes Protection .org)
Stedmister 7/23/2013 2:17:45 PM Report

i was at the meeting, and it was a very tough decision, I myself was thinking how would I vote based on the information, there were alot of holes on both sides of the argument. I feel Council made the best call. I do agree housing is important, but we need jobs for young people too. i see the Sault expanding in some areas and shrinking in others, we need to have a well balanced level of professions for young people and I'm not seeing much of that. There was a report on CBC on Doc Zone saying the young generations will never own homes, boats, cottages, etc like their parents did, i completely agree with it. Our employment sector needs to change, big time, how many jobs train nowadays compared to 40 years ago, very view. I think on-the-job training is the best solution for a stable economy.
Firefly7 7/25/2013 12:56:37 AM Report

There are only 4 council members that are actually pro development the rest of them including the mayor should be replaced. Do you actually think that the developer would do anything to jeopardize his own back yard - I'm sure if there were a problem he would rectify it seeing as he would be living in the development. The people that are against this development only appear to be jealous of the developers hard work and achievements. The developers are not out to make money as this has obviously cost them a bundle. They appear to be very charitable around the community and it's really too bad that they are not recognized for their generosity. Several studies have been done but council does not have the knowledge to understand anything that is going on. They should have listened to their planner as he appeared to be the only one with any expertise besides the professionals hired by the developer. Hopefully the city turns down the garbage plant in the Base Line area that will be putting poison in the air as this would actually be dangerous to human lives. A plant similar to this is being sued in Europe - let's study this to death as well.
blondie45 7/25/2013 2:56:28 PM Report

Firefly, I could not have said it better myself. You took the words right out of my mouth!
Comments
40
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