What’s at the heart of Sunny Mount Park? PART 1
I am a Milton resident and this series contains opinions—mine and those of fellow Milton residents. The objective of this series is two-fold: to help everyday Miltonians find information, and providing raw insight to local elected officials when it comes to the feelings of residents. To facilitate connections between local government and everyday residents when it comes to advocating for Milton neighborhoods.
AT ISSUE: 155 Ruhl Drive, also known as Sunny Mount Park. There is a Zoning Amendment Application to facilitate the development of the lands for the construction of an office building with associated parking (surface and underground). The existing heritage dwelling is also to be retained and adaptively reused for uses permitted in the existing site-specific Local Commercial Zone.
According to a PLANNING ACT NOTICE OF STATUTORY PUBLIC MEETING issued by the Town of Milton on February 14, 2017, members of the public were invited to obtain information, make a verbal presentation and/or written submission, to identify issues of concern and/or express views in support of, or in opposition to, the proposed application at a Statutory Public Meeting hosted by the Town of Milton on Monday, March 6, 2017 at Town Hall.
RESIDENTS OF THE WILLMOTT NEIGHBORHOOD
About 21 people spoke on the topic of Sunny Mount Park at a meeting held Monday evening at Milton’s town hall. Among the delegates were a number of children, some of whom are students at Anne J. MacArthur (AJM), which backs onto the green space in question. Abigail Kennedy, 8, was one of those children. How did she feel speaking as a delegate? She says she “was nervous” but, she “loves the park and they use the park all the time at school.” With her mom and her little brother in tow, Kennedy suggests that we take a photograph of her “up on the hill.” She points towards the large grassy mound which overlooks the back yard of her school.
Leslie Kennedy is Abigail’s mother. “I was planning to go to the meeting last night to voice my own concerns. I told [Abigail] on the way home last night that I was going to a council meeting and why…she begged me to come so that she could say something. She is usually very timid and HATES being the centre of attention. But this was very important to her.…She started crying when she said they were killing her trees. I finished her speech for her. She said the students use the land there for nature walks and the Terry Fox Run and that there is an owl who lives in that park and they were going to be taking away his home. She said the ‘millions and millions’ of kids at AJM would be hurt by this. It was really very sweet and very emotional.”
The “Save Sunny Mount Park” group was created by concerned citizens who wanted to take the conversation about the park to a sidebar conversation that was happening in their neighbourhood. Says Leslie Kennedy, “it was specifically set up to raise issues and concerns, and rally people. They are talking about putting a driveway metres from where kids play basketball and a giant…monstrosity smack dab in the middle of what was promised to be exclusively parkland….It makes zero sense to put a building of that size there. A medical building in a park, in a residential area, on a heritage property? What are they thinking?”
Fellow resident Nicole Parsons organized a petition—signed by 340 residents—which was presented at the meeting. Parsons also started the Facebook group which is run jointly by Parsons and other residents “who have taken leading roles in the process.” The group shared the petition through local social media groups and sent it to their friends and family to sign. Says Parsons, “the petition is still open and will continue collecting signatures until the next meeting where the council will vote.” Parsons lives in the subdivision across Bronte St. from the park.
Erin K. Card grew up in Milton. Her yard backs onto Sunny Mount Park. She has been outspoken about the project and in particular about the processes surrounding the development proposal. She says she believes that Milton attracts so many families because the community in Milton puts people first, but she has concerns about how she feels the town is handling growth. “The old Milton that I grew up in is not the same, not because of the influx of people, but because of the behaviour of our representatives,” says Card. “This park is used by neighbouring schools for various positive activities, not to mention…traffic…already isn’t managed well in that area. Can you imagine adding this plus underground parking? There will be a driveway right through the park also.”
Card refers to 2012 when she says that residents were invited for their input on the park. “There was much excitement at this amazing gem that would be in the heart of a residential area.” She says that many people based their options for purchasing on being in close proximity to the park. “…on my street residents paid a premium of an extra $15,000 plus on new builds just to back onto the park.” She also says that home buyers were assured the park was only going to be used in line with its original mandate and that the historical house would be protected. “I see Sunny Mount park as our own little Central park.”
Allison Sitlani’s daughter, Ava, 9, was adamant that she wanted to speak at the meeting. Says Sitlani, “In Ava’s words, a building in the middle of the park when you want to have fun ‘doesn’t work’. We purchased our home when we moved to Milton five years ago…back[ing] onto Sunny Mount Park. We selected the site specifically because of the adjacency to the green space.” Sitlani references the family’s contract with their builder, stating that the contract indicates that “purchasers and/or tenants are advised that the adjacent lands will be programmed for recreational use and/or contain park amenities and facilities associated with the Neighbourhood Park and School.” Sitlani says that their contract doesn’t say anything about the city selling the land to build a commercial building in the middle of the park. The family attended all of the town meetings which were held when the original concept for the park was proposed. Sitlani says the park was billed as a unique space, a gem, and a naturalized park incorporating Milton’s heritage. The town listened to concerns the community had at the time about parking, safety, traffic flow etc., and revised the plan accordingly. Says Sitlani, “We love our park and we are so proud that our community is standing strong to keep it this way.”
Reflections on the Sunny Mount Park portion of Monday’s meeting from some of Milton’s town councillors.
Local & Regional Councillor
“I was very encouraged by the turn out of local residents in the area to speak their minds. Sadly this hasn’t been a perfect consultation overall, but through the efforts of these residents, they have been able to collect over 300+ signatures on a petition. This was just the beginning stage of what’s to come in the coming months. This was an opportunity for residents to speak their minds and for staff and council to listen. My only hope is that we can get to a “Made in Milton” solution as opposed to a “Made in the OMB” solution. As the proposal stands, I’m not in favour of it moving forward and I hope the developer and builders were listening as close as members of council were at the meeting.”
“I think the meeting went well. The local residents made their concerns known to Council, staff and the developer. Now we wait and see how those concerns are addressed in the final technical report. But based on what I heard at the meeting the local residents won’t support any proposal that proposes any type of development in that park area.”
Rick Di Lorenzo
“I was greatly impressed by the public participation at yesterday’s council meeting. Especially the number of young children who spoke to Council. I’m hoping the developer will come back with a revised application that respects the current zoning and realizes that an application outside of that will likely not be viewed positively by either the community or town council. Our goal is to protect the heritage building and have it used as a focal point for the local community. Our goal (IMO) was not to build a separate office building in the middle of a public park.”
“I was happy to see a good mix of neighbours, students, and teachers come out for the public meeting to provide their input. There were some excellent points brought up during the delegations that helped me to form a better understanding of the situation. It’s clear that the residents in the area do not feel as though this development is a good fit, and I tend to agree. I hope that the developer will be open to working with residents, council, and staff to find a solution that works, and vice versa. I am also concerned about the current state of the heritage home on the property and would hope for some type of assurance from the developer that the building will be protected from further damage in the meantime. As one of the first houses to be built in Milton, it’s a significant heritage resource. Its protection and restoration should be a high priority for everyone involved. I’m looking forward to seeing how this application progresses and will continue to make myself available to answer questions & hear from residents throughout the process.”
Local & Regional Councillor
“The initial public meeting for 155 Ruhl Drive was one of the more well-attended public meetings that I have seen with 21 people speaking at the meeting and a petition with more than 340 names delivered to Council regarding neighbours concern with the application. Council received the report and requested staff to prepare a technical report on the revised two floor 25,000 square foot professional office building application, which should be coming back to Council for a public review in a few months. If anyone has any questions or comments on the application they should send them to the planner responsible for the report at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“New development should add value to the existing community. Since this proposal does the opposite, it’s dead on arrival. I hope the developer reflects upon everything he heard from residents and comes up with a plan that works for people in the area.”
Brian Williams is the architect’s agent as listed on the public notice sign posted along Ruhl Drive at Sunny Mount Park. We asked Mr. Williams for his comments after the meeting, either on his behalf or on behalf of his client. Williams confirmed that he was in attendance at the meeting. He did not wish to make any comments at that time.
READ MORE ABOUT THE SUNNY MOUNT PARK PROPOSAL:
Development Application – Willmott
2471123 ONTARIO INC. – TOWN FILE: Z-04/16
PLANNING ACT NOTICE OF STATUTORY PUBLIC MEETING
BACKGROUND INFORMATION from the Town of Milton
NOTICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION CENTRE from the DEVELOPER
PROTECT SUNNY MOUNT PARK PETITION
(This is an ongoing story. We have reached out to all town councillors and the developer’s agent. If additional comments are sent in, we may review and include those comments as an addendum to this story.)