The village of Westport is crafting a zoning amendment to allow model homes to be built before the final approval and registration of a plan of subdivision.
The need for a zoning amendment has come up as the village entertains a pre-servicing agreement with Land Ark Homes for the Watercolour development on what are known as the Derbyshire lands or Harvest Creek Development in the village.
"One of the things I've noticed in working with the village is that the zoning bylaw does not currently include zoning provisions for model homes, and that unfortunately would prevent model homes from being built, notwithstanding a pre-servicing agreement," said Steve Pentz, a consulting planner with Novatech.
In early January, Westport council passed a bylaw allowing the mayor and chief executive officer to sign a pre-servicing agreement with Land Ark Homes.
Chief executive officer Paul Snider said that agreement hasn't yet been finalized as the village is still waiting for the deposit and documents pertaining to insurance requirements and signs.
"We expect these items shortly and then the agreement can be finalized and in the Land Ark Construction development the model home agreement is a part of the pre-servicing agreement," said Snider.
According to Pentz it's not unusual for municipal bylaws to include zoning provisions for model homes.
"The pre-servicing agreement allows developers to get underway with construction in advance of registration. The model home provision allows model homes to be constructed prior to registration," said Pentz.
Model homes, explained Pentz, have to be built to Ontario building code standards and can only be used as a sales office or showroom and are not hooked up to municipal services until the developer's plan of subdivision is fully registered. As such model homes cannot be occupied until full approvals and registration is complete. Before model homes can be built, all the engineering plans have to have been approved, and the developer has to have submitted their plans to the Ministry of the Environment for environmental compliance approvals, Pentz told Westport council in a presentation.
"The whole idea of model homes, then, is to speed things up, and at some point they'll be sold and they'll be ready to be connected to infrastructure," said Coun. Barry Card.
At a public zoning meeting held on Jan. 19, one resident expressed concerns that the amendment allowing model homes would be putting the "cart before the horse" by allowing homes to be built before stormwater management plans are in place.
The objection voiced by a resident neighbouring the proposed Land Ark Development was particularly concerned over potential flooding in the village as a result. Another resident questioned whether a developer could deviate from their proposed subdivision design and then sell the model homes for immediate occupancy prior to final approvals and registration.
"The way the bylaw amendment has been structured, it does put measures in place to ensure that certain things happen in advance of getting a model home building permit," said Pentz.
These include a measure to ensure that model homes are sited in accordance with zoning and compared with what has been approved through the draft plan of subdivision, and that includes street profiles, grading, drainage design, and service connections. All those things have to be approved first, said Pentz.
While the pre-servicing agreement and zoning amendment do benefit the developer in allowing them to get a head start on construction and therefore a head start on sales, they are not a free pass. As far as how many model homes can be constructed in a proposed subdivision, each case is different.
"The number of model homes allowed under the bylaw will be determined on a case-by-case basis," said Snider.
In all cases, when a developer applies to build a number of model homes the village engineer has to confirm and approve the subdivision design plans and a model home agreement has to be approved by council, said Snider.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times