Potential traffic issues with new subdivision
These two photos show the short distance between the approximate entrance road of the proposed new subdivision on the north side of Russell Village. Above is a photo of the site where a house has been recently torn down. The photo was taken from the driveway of Russell High School. The lower photo is the school’s driveway, taken from the driveway at the site. Residents are concerned about the combination of the three schools in the northern section of the village and a main access road for over 400 new homes in such close proximity.      Vetter photos

Candice Vetter
Villager Staff
RUSSELL – At a council meeting held Mon., Aug. 14, the Township of Russell discussed an application for a subdivision and zoning change which could add over 400 homes to Russell Village, as well as some commercial space.

The meeting also met the requirements for a public consultation on the topic, and about 30 residents attended, many of whom asked questions after seeing the presentation.

The project is proposed by Melanie Construction and would be built on the village’s north end, stretching from North Russell Rd. all the way to Eadie Rd. It is described as Part of Lot 13, Conc. 3, Russell. The site requires zoning approval and the permission of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, both of which are likely to be granted. Melanie Construction has prepared a plan of the subdivision which can be seen on the Township’s website, by looking at the background documents to go with the agenda of the Aug. 14 meeting.

The plan includes 427 lots, 325 of which would be single family homes, 34 of which would be semi-detached, and 68 of which would be townhomes. This new subdivision will connect by road to the Russell Trails subdivision. Four blocks of the new plan are designated for commercial use on North Russell Rd., and a small park is planned for the east side.

The site is currently zoned R1, and the townhomes and the plan requires zoning changes to R2, R3 and commercial.

Council would need to allocate water and sewer units, and a possible fish habitat has to be investigated by South Nation Conservation. Biologists are to confirm if the watercourse is a stream or drain or a fish-spawning area. Early investigations will be peer reviewed by SNC, which will take a closer look in the springtime. Council asked if the stream will be filled in if it turns out not be natural habitat and were told that depended on the SNC’s outcome. The existing stormwater pond will be expanded if needed.

Questions from the public included asking when the park land would become available to the people moving in, because in the past, parks and play equipment have taken a very long time. Planner Dominique Tremblay said it depends on the builder phases, but the Township is trying to get them to put in the park during phase one of the building process and that the park is included in the plan of the subdivision.

Councillor Jamie Laurin asked if there is something in public policy about servicing that park sooner rather than later. Parks and Recreation director Celine Guitard answered that they usually try to service parks as soon as possible, and that they were doing a park study right now.

Laurin persisted, asking if the Township had something in policy to tell future councils not to forget to put parks in these new development areas. “In 10 years you’re not sitting at this table anymore and no one remembers…this park wasn’t done.”

Resident Catherine Shane said that over 400 homes would probably add about 700 cars, and asked if the developer is going to put in a roundabout to help traffic on North Russell Rd., and if there were any financial provisions, not just based on current tax dollars, but all these homes as well. Mayor Pierre Leroux said there will be a traffic study, and that if the study means changes, usually the developer does add turning lanes, to which Shane responded, “We’re not just talking turning lanes.”

Other concerns brought forward include consideration of the bike trail, because everyone will be crossing North Russell Rd. with bicycles to get to the trail, and a fire safety concern. This new development will have large blocks and access out on North Russell Rd., right across from the entrance to Russell High School. This led to the issue of fire safety and bringing fire trucks into a large area with limited connections to major streets.

Betty Walsh of North Russell Rd. stated that she had two different maps, with an earlier one that was given to her mother when she sold the land in 2004. That one showed a plan for a 60-unit seniors home. Walsh said the reason her mother agreed to sell was she approved of the purpose and both her mother and father saw it as providing a reasonable place for seniors to live in the future. Walsh said the site was mapped and blueprints drawn, and now roads were going right through. “Now it’s changed back,” she said. “Why the flip flop?”

In a telephone interview with The Villager, Walsh explained further. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It felt so good that Dad’s last wishes would be respected, but the developer just turned around. They got their way so they can do what they want now.” She was also saddened to see the house her mother was born in be torn down. She said that after the deal was signed, the buyer said they needed access to the main road. “So mom gave him her laneway, not as part of the sale but as a gift. Later when she sold the house too she was told she needed to be out within two years, so she came to live with me.”

Walsh also shared an anecdote, saying seven years ago her sister went through a similar transaction. (Walsh’s house, her mother’s and her sister’s had been all lined up along North Russell Rd., now only Walsh’s remains.) “Dad built my sister’s house when she was born. When she sold it she did it with the understanding it would be the new library. Something good for the town!” said Walsh. “But it was just money grabbing.” She is concerned about the loss of wildlife habitat and about the traffic. “We already don’t book appointments near 2:30 or 3 p.m.” she said. “Because of the school traffic.”

Walsh also said she does not have town-supplied water, and she had better get it if all these new houses do, and in addition, she expects surface water flooding to be a problem. “We’ve already had problems,” she said and described an incident where water was pumped onto weeping tiles and ended up flooding her house. “What are they going to do with all this water?”

Walsh is not opposed to development, but she said she would like it to be done with careful consideration of all the issues.

The public can comment on the proposal by sending an email to sboudreault@prescott-russell.on.ca. The comments must be received before UCPR Council approves the new subdivision, which will be at a time of their choosing. Individuals can also ask to be kept informed of the approval progress on the issue.