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Proposed official plan amended for potential Oliver Road development

Council disagrees with administration recommendation and approves amendment to extend residential growth area west along Oliver Road.
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Silvio Di Gregorio
Silvio Di Gregorio makes a deputation to Thunder Bay city council on Monday, March 12, 2018. (Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – The city’s new official plan, which is nearing final completion, has been tweaked to potentially pave the way for a new subdivision that could extend water and sewer lines along Oliver Road.  

Thunder Bay city council on Monday night approved an amendment to the proposed land use guiding document that would create a residential growth area west along Oliver Road from Belrose Road to Beckwick Road.

Developer Silvio Di Gregorio, who lives along Oliver Road, had urged for council to include a designation that would allow for eventual residential development on the land, arguing its proximity to the Thunder Bay Expressway, along with Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Lakehead University positions it as close to the urban core.

“It also has a large number of residential homes that are paying some of the highest taxes in the city,” Di Gregorio said. “Despite all of this, our area has been continuously overlooked when it comes to providing essential services to our area.”

The city’s municipal water line stops at Belrose Road, leaving the homes just west on Oliver Road unconnected, Di Gregorio added.

Di Gregorio, the secretary-treasurer of Bruno’s Contracting, said his firm owns about 200 potential lots within that area. The inclusion of the growth area would still require developers to go through a secondary plan process, which could take up to five years. Di Gregorio estimated it would likely be at least eight years until any lots could be up for sale.

“There is sufficient vacant land off Oliver Road and that it would make economic sense for a developer to extend both sanitary and water to permit the development in full urban service standard,” Di Gregorio said.

“This could be done at no cost to the city. This would also permit the existing residents along there to have municipal water and sanitary sewer and eliminate some of the dilemmas this area has had from potable and insufficient water to get up and have a shower in the morning.”

Leslie McEachern, the city’s director of planning services, said the proposed plan included 10,000 potential new residential development units. One of the growth area extensions encompassed lands south of John Street Road and east of Belrose Road.

“Given the very, very slow growth we’re anticipating we don’t see a need to designate additional lands as growth area within the timeframe of this official plan,” McEachern said.

Coun. Trevor Giertuga, who represents the McIntyre ward that covers the areas in question, proposed the amendment.

“We talk about infill. This is so close, it’s within 1.5 kilometres of (Lakehead University) and the hospital,” Giertuga said. “I think it is good planning to at least get it in there.”

The city planning department had been collecting public feedback since the draft plan was unveiled in October. A significant response was received about the residential designation of Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital lands in the event the provincially-owned property is put up for sale.

Administration recommends keeping that designation with the report to council stating the province would have to sell the lands for fair market price and is not expected they would be sold to be maintained as parklands.

McEachern said a development plan would be required before any redevelopment, with plans needing to integrate preserving and enhancing natural features into their framework with parkland to be incorporated into the area’s open space system while managing stormwater.

The official plan will return to council at a public meeting in April. Following council’s approval, the document requires final approval from the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs.