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Mountain Road development raises concerns

A proposed 69-home development in Neebing is raising concerns over safety and urban sprawl

THUNDER BAY – A proposed new development in the Neebing area is raising concerns from area residents, who fear it could exacerbate safety issues in a neighbourhood they say is already under-serviced.

Others have raised objections to the project on the grounds it would constitute urban sprawl.

The city received an application in July to build a 69-home subdivision on a large tract of land near the intersection of Highway 61 and Mountain Road, which is now open to comment from nearby residents.

If approved, it would create a number of new roads north of the South Neebing Community Centre, with a new connection to the highway across from Mount Forest Boulevard.

The proposal from developer Shore Bay Estates proposes lowering minimum lot sizes to a half acre, the smallest allowed given the properties will require private septic systems.

On social media, area residents are raising concerns the additional traffic would worsen existing safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists on Mountain Road.

The road lacks a sidewalk or paved shoulder, despite the presence of the Nor’Westerview elementary school and a nearby childcare centre, community centre, and hockey arena.

The city has discussed plans to build pedestrian and cycling infrastructure along Mountain Road and 15th Side Road since at least 1991, and numerous residents raised the area’s lack of active transportation infrastructure during consultations in 2019 for the city’s transportation master plan.

City planner Jamie Kirychuk said the city is still reviewing the developer’s application, and will address residents’ safety concerns in its eventual recommendation to city council, which will have the final say over its approval.

He encouraged nearby residents to submit feedback before the notice period closes on Sept. 11. The notice of application is available online, and comments can be sent to jkirychuk@thunderbay.ca.

City councillor Cody Fraser, who represents the Neebing ward, said the new development could pose some infrastructure concerns. However, he expected it was more likely to draw fire over charges of urban sprawl.

“Our official policy has been trying to promote infill versus urban sprawl,” he explained. “Many people have expressed the concern to me that this project would be increasing our footprint, versus filling in what we already have. If there are councillors who would be opposed to the project, it’s likely on those grounds.”

The land is zoned as a rural settlement area, said Kirychuk, allowing for development under the city’s official plan.

“In some ways this development is infill, and in other ways it’s outside the urban settlement area,” he said. “In terms of whether it fits within the official plan or not, the development proposal at face value does – but certainly they have to meet a number of different criteria: environmental, traffic, storm water, things like that.”

Mosquito Creek, designated an Environmental Protection Zone, runs through the lot at 1811 Mountain Road.

The approval process could also involve a public meeting, at the city’s discretion, before the planning department submits a recommendation to city council.

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