Mono fears large homes diminish its rural character

November 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By JAMES MATTHEWS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mono is working to save its rolling hills from Monster Homes.

And, no, that’s nothing in the spirit of Halloween’s approach.

Council took a look during its regular meeting Oct. 25 at a draft amendment to the town’s Official Plan that would add stronger wording about lot development and aesthetics.

 Council decided to have the town’s Planning Department bring the draft amendment to the public for statutory review.

“Our Official Plan right now, I think, is quite strong when it comes to the creation of new lots that are devoid of landscaping that aren’t going to protect the impact of new larger residential development,” said Mark Early, the town’s CAO.

He said some of the problems with the aesthetics of larger homes are on lots created outside the Official Plan process. Or, he said, they’re built on large lots that it was felt people would have developed farther back from the roadway.

In May 2021, council tasked the director of Planning to investigate options for controlling overly large houses being built on rural lots. This Resolution was preceded with a Motion:

Mayor John Creelman, who was deputy mayor when the motion was passed, asked to have staff look into establishing a process in which the town would review applications for what are commonly referred to as Monster Homes.

It’s hoped it will ensure the size and scale of residential construction is appropriate for the lot size.

Issues with Monster Homes range from the superficial to the practical. They include such concerns as rural neighbourhoods and a taxing demand for water due to large swimming pools and extra bathrooms inside.

A report to council prepared by David Trotman, the town’s director of planning, indicates that the issue with larger homes appears to be focused not only on the size, or relative size of a few houses being proposed, but also their location on the rural lot.

It’s created “concern about adverse influences on the rural character where they arise,” Trotman wrote.

And the use of such subjective terms as rural character in a proposed amendment has created concern for Deputy Mayor Fred Nix.

“The terms are so subjective that I just don’t know how it can be implemented,” he said. “Down the road, I don’t know how some of these subjective terms are going to be used or defined.”

But such is the nature of an Official Plan, Early said.

“You don’t have those firm directions in an Official Plan, generally,” he said. “That’s usually relied upon through the zoning bylaw.”

Development on larger lots should be minimally intrusive on Mono’s rural character. Just as smaller lots of under 20 acres should be discouraged in areas with little foliage to screen them from municipal roads.

Basically, the amendment intends to hide a development’s footprint. To prevent blemishes on the picturesque treed landscape.

Councillor Ralph Manktelow agreed with the deputy mayor.

“This is very soft,” he said. “It does not give very good advice.”

The goal is to preserve the rural landscape, Manktelow said. The use of such directives as ensuring compatibility with the environment and being sympathetic to the rural character is too subjective.

“And open to the bias of the person who is making the decisions about this,” Manktelow said. “It’s very a blunt instrument to control Monster Homes.”

Early suggested site plan design guidelines would be an option to give substance to some of the subjective descriptors. Existing policies have landscaping requirements and stipulate minimum setbacks from roadways. They can be enforced through a consent process as conditions of lot creation.

“We have that authority under existing Official Plan policies,” Early said. “This amendment will tighten that up.”

Manktelow said the devil is the details regarding language required to give the amendment teeth.

Coun. Melinda Davie said making the wording too specific would limit the town’s control over lot development.

She understands the aesthetic difference between a lovely hill with an ostentatious house built atop it versus the lovely hill with a quaint home on it. But the towns should indicate preference one way or the other.

The next step would be to tighten zoning requirements.

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