BRANTFORD – The Mohawk Village of Davisville was once a hub for the emerging Methodist Church as well as a joint Mohawk/Mississaugas of the New Credit village in the late 1820’s.
The Northwest area of what is today Brantford, between Hardy Road and the Grand River, plus extensive hunting area around the village, saw the peaceful coexistence of settler, Mississauga and Mohawk.
After regular flooding of the Grand River due to clear-cutting of lumber upstream in Kitchener, Guelph and Cambridge area, the Village was abandoned for drier environs. The Davisville Mohawks resettled in Sour Springs and the Mississaugas returned to their own people.
Fast forward to June 28th, 2014. Developers Sifton Homes and Grandview Ravines as well as the City have been waiting for the Ontario Municipal Board to rule on an objection filed by the developers alleging that they have been treated badly by the City of Brantford. They argued that the City changed its mind on deciding whether to allow housing developments to go ahead after public outcry from area citizens, environmentalists, Waterfront Master Plan advocates, and Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the New Credit representatives.
After two years of testimony and debate through several public hearings, the decision of the OMB was delivered June 26th, and mailed to participants in the debate.
Sifton Properties Ltd. argued that 277 Hardy, which it had obtained from a previous developer in 2008, was the subject of heel dragging by Brantford in finalizing the permit to build on the historic, ecologically and geologically significant site.
Grand River Ravines has a similar case against the City for 125 Golf Road adjacent to the Sifton property. The City of Brantford has since accepted a comprehensive Waterfront Master Plan, which seriously curtails any thoughts of development in that area.
Speaking on behalf of Six Nations’ concerns regarding an existing land claim to the region, lack of consultation or accommodation, as well having the Davisville areas recognized as culturally significant, were former Elected Chief Bill Montour as well as members of the Men’s Fire with spokespeople Lester Green and Bill Monture.
The ruling did not go entirely in Six Nations or Brantford’s favour. Both were seeking to have the residential designation removed from the entire area. But it also put serious restrictions on what Sifton and Grandview could and could not do due to the unique and sensitive nature of the area. But it did not give the developers exactly what they wanted either.
Although the OMB ruled that building could take place, it orders the developers to redesign large portions which threatened these sensitive areas, cutting significantly the number of homes it would allow, and therefore the profits Sifton and Grandview envisioned.
“Significant changes to the plans are required including increased buffer widths and eliminating encroachment into the provincially significant wetland,” says the OMB.
Many other elements to the plan also had to be addressed before construction could begin.
While the Board rejected the City’s call to stop development entirely, it laid a gauntlet of revisions before the developers.
“There are a number of fundamental issues that are outstanding and could affect the design of the plans of subdivision, and impact the amount of developable areas,” says the OMB report.
But the report also adds, “With the exception of an area of the Grandview site on which 15 lots are proposed, the Board must conclude that plans of subdivision are premature.”
This means the board felt that there were too many unresolved issues that must be satisfied by the developers to accept the plans as they presently exist. Some of these amendments will take into account the recommendation from the Waterfront Master Plan (WMP) for protection of and access to the river. But not all.
The WMP determined that the Official Plan designations on these lands should be changed so that there would be no residential use of the property. That recommendation, along with several others, was rejected by the OMB.
The Board requires Sifton and Grandview restrict its plan to ensure natural heritage features and functions to the point where they admit that with the addition of services and access revisions, “may reduce the amount of development area … to the extent where it may not be economical for Sifton to develop the lands.”
The Board also required that the developers must expand their buffer zones to the coldwater streams in the area to 30 meters.
Haudenosaunee speakers discussed lack of consultation in the preparation of the WMP itself. Although there was a representative sent, she was only there as an observer and it was made clear that this should not be construed as consultation.
Under the heading of Cultural Heritage, the OMB report concludes that the Sifton property contains three pre-contact archaeological sites, which have been excavated as part of a Phase 4 archaeological investigation in 2004, “indicating that it is not necessary to impose conditions on development or curtail agricultural use of the property.”
There are also six 18th century sites related to Davisville on the Sifton lands, however Sifton is proposing to protect all of the Davisville sites on the property.
Dr. David Warrick, acting as the City’s archaeologist on the site, recommended the Sifton and Grandview sites be designated as a cultural heritage landscape in order to receive a greater level of protection.
Dr. Timmins acted as the developer’s archaeologist and says the company’s proposed changes would be appropriate enough to allow development, under certain conditions.
Former Chief Montour in his final testimony told the OMB that consultation goes well beyond notification and informal discussions.
“The type of consultation we expect is where the appropriate representatives of the Haudenosaunee community meet with appropriate people of the other parties and discuss issues until a final decision is reached.” He referred to the Supreme Court Decision in the Haida Nation v. British Columbia and other cases, which established in Canadian law the duty to consult. However, the Board determined that the municipality does not need to consult with the Haudenosaunee, but that the province and/or feds do.
The Board ruled that there is not enough evidence to stop development in the entire area, and that with adjustments in the plan by Sifton and Grandview, they would be OK to go ahead.
There are also a few question marks that could curtail Sifton and Grandview even further. Regarding endangers to animal species in the area, the Board determined that, “It may be necessary to exclude a portion of this area from development if it is determined that habitat requires protection,” the report says.