While everyone has been enjoying the long weekend, we have been busy putting together our notes from the March 27, 2018 Planning & Development meeting. With so many speakers for the Century Condos “open house”, needless to say we had a great deal of paper to go over.
Many residents were turned away at the door due to Town Hall reaching it’s fire regulation capacity, so a tentative second “open house” meeting was scheduled for April 10th for those unable to get in to raise their concerns and questions. That meeting has recently been canceled by the Town as they were “notified by the applicant that the proposed design will be changed significantly”.
The Town’s official Planning & Development Committee meeting minutes of March 27 can be found here:
The minutes are very brief and only note that:
“Prior to the Planning & Development meeting there was an Open House regarding zoning and official plan amendments for 6 Doran & 21-23 Main Street.”
We have captured some of the proceedings, comments and questions below (a long but interesting read):
“Century Condominiums” Presentation – Mr. John Ariens, Planner – IBI Group
- The property has 48 metres frontage on Main Street.
- The property is approximately 0.75 acres, including the alley.
- The alleyway is owned by the Town and the lands are to be acquired by the owner, who will provide a right of way which will be a significant benefit.
- The footprint is small with a lot coverage of 35%.
- Lands represent a “big gap in that downtown smile”.
- 125 parking spaces will be provided with 37 surface and 88 underground.
- The building will be stepped back at the 3rd storey, like a “wedding cake”.
- There are five storeys on one side at the back, which takes into account the angular plane to deal with privacy and overview issues on Doran.
- At the March 1 Open House five main issues were heard: traffic, parking – not enough, conformity to the OP, historical character – doesn’t match, school location and safety.
- Traffic was studied at four intersections in close proximity in November, 2017 and with background info and growth at 2%, there was no level of service change.
- The intersections can handle the added traffic.
- Parking determines the density and number of units – not height/density determines parking.
- Density is not regulated by the Official Plan.
- Historic Character – the two-storey colonnades and three-storey podium reflect comments we received over several meetings with Town and Regional staff.
- Main goal is to “marry the design” of streetscape with colonnades.
- Region came up with the initial sketch to help us fine tune the design. We came up with a slightly revised version and tweaked the design. Further designs to follow.
- Some visual examples were an eight-storey in Hamilton on James St. N. and a six storey in Beamsville next to single family homes.
- Visual example of Port Dalhousie’s 18-storey within a cultural heritage landscape and Heritage Conservation District and blends in with the heritage.
- School Safety – will work with the Region and Town at the site plan stage.
- Next steps – willing to alter building design but historical society declined input.
- One resident has come forward to meet with us as a result of the NewsNow article.
- This is the first application for change and a stronger downtown. Our slogan, “Eight is Great”.
Public Comments (Our apologies if we missed anything/roughness of our notes):
- Not enough parking. Doran Avenue is a concern. Buses and parents dropping off kids.
- Bothered by the comparison of our town to major cities.
- Hamilton is opposing the “TV City” towers. We don’t want eight. We don’t want another towering inferno.
- Powerpoint presentation on the OP, Provincial Policy Statement (2014) and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Language in it that provides protection for cultural heritage landscapes (which Main Street was defined as in 2015) and that intensification is not appropriate in every location, OMB cases cited. Shadow impacts on Doran.
- When asked at the March 1 Open House if you (the developer) would reconsider the height, there was only “crickets”. Don’t say that we don’t understand traffic. Dorothy Turcotte has published some excellent works on historical context and culture in Grimsby. We want responsible development. I will fight this all the way. Like LJM, will the Town stick it to the residents again? That is going to change. At the developer’s open house he stated they had been meeting with town planning staff for a year and a half, stating “look at what we created”. Every one on the committee is elected to represent the people. The developer lives in Winona. Developers have to work with the people – they can’t take it back once it’s done. Don’t tell me I don’t understand, I went to talk to the people. I listen to people. Downtown they say, “if this construction blocks the street, I’m gone.” We don’t have the infrastructure, police resources, by-law resources. Put this development off until the new council comes in.
- Are we wasting our time and is the decision already made? (Chair responded that “we received the package Friday the same time as everyone else and haven’t even had a chance to give feedback”).
- The Historical Society sent a letter that we are all volunteers and don’t have experts on board, we’re not the Grimsby Preservation Society, we very much care, it’s how we participate and express our opinion.
- With split/shared parking for residents, retail and visitors, how can we know if it’s sufficient (like the DeSantis business centre in Winston Neighbourhood that has not been constructed yet)? Impacts on traffic at peak hours will also affect the stoplight at Maple. This development is totally out of scale for our downtown area.
- I can’t get out of my driveway on Doran Avenue now with the school buses and people using my driveway to turn around in. This development will add a lot of commercial vehicles and truck traffic. Even four storeys is too high. A restaurant business will generate commercial deliveries. Why do these rich developers think they can do what they want? Build by the Superstore as high as he wants. Use the alleyway, not Doran to exit.
- I go to all the P&D meetings and each time I hear parking. No GO train, no transit, no cab company. Is he using the chart as his guide? You can pay anyone to tell you what you want re: traffic counts. Reduce the # of units. There will be a new council next year – put it off.
- I don’t buy the traffic numbers on the intersections. Have we done our own assessment? (Planning staff response – our Public Works traffic engineer will review their proposal). We need an independent study. Heritage – that in no way represents a heritage building. Look at Cobourg, they went the right way. We have two blocks downtown, that’s not a heck of a lot that we need to preserve. We need to take a very close look at what we put in there. 2% growth – with the GO train and other developments, that won’t hold up.
- Aquablu resident. Grimsby is a car town. I would happily give up my car as I only use it 5% of the time. Old people will move in. Appreciate the pain of the local people. People would build a fence, “don’t come here.” I think the development is too small. All in favour of the new build, at the back of the hill, you probably won’t even notice it. You can’t stop progress. “Put your long pants on, Grimsby is growing up.”
- Context for this proposal. The OP was previously sanctioned by the Province. Ontario has targets, policies and “performance indicators”. Region is already doing its part. Why are we doing things so quickly? It’s too fast and too complex for a small town. Planning staff must be overloaded. Gross over-intensification. The alley conversion will put more pressure on Doran. We don’t have the infrastructure, “air space in Grimsby is not for sale”. We’re not Hamilton. We need an area of exclusion for Downtown and stick to our OP.
- Need to consider the Robinson condos in the traffic analysis. If committee’s intent is to protect the character of the Downtown, then you need to “walk the talk.” Don’t let this be the legacy of your biggest mistake ever. Intensification targets have been met. Better manage the money you have now. The OP is a good plan, stick to the plan. This does not match the heritage character downtown. No amount of bonusing will make it a good choice. Need to proceed slowly.
- The alleyway is 9’ wide and is not safe, it has to be expanded.
- Doran Avenue resident. We need assurances from the builder re: infrastructure can handle it. By-Law officer needed, driveways are regularly blocked. Density targets – no clear answer if we have met or we have not. What about other new development coming downtown? Parking – employee parking is not noted anywhere. Snow is piled on sidewalks now, what are they going to do differently? Drainage/runoff/elevation changes – we’ll be looking at a “monolithic wall.” Who at the Region has Mr. DeSantis dealt with? The shadow study is using an improper model.
- Doran Avenue resident. Live right across from the development. It’s a little safe street with old, not flashy homes. Big back yards with old trees. We can see the escarpment. We will lose so much if this is approved. Need to put our town above the desires of the developer – it’s us that says no. The OP – we all agreed to it, he has the audacity to tell us he knows better. Changes and growth are inevitable, but we need to do it right.
- Doesn’t come close to respecting our heritage. Don’t like the plan. Traffic at Ontario St will be terrible. Fire response issues. With respect to dentistry, there is one on every block. I hate it when people use examples as if they are experts… (in reference to the “big gap in the downtown smile”): “if you put in a crown, you don’t put one in four times higher.”
- Why was the traffic study done in November and not July, August, September?
- What happens if the developer takes us to the OMB and asks for 12 storeys?
- The developer’s December 2017 planning justification report states that at the July 18, 2017 pre-consultation meeting with various planners, agents and staff members to discuss the eight storey, 86 unit building, “in general, the Town of Grimsby staff were supportive of the proposed design.” If town planners supported it in July of 2017, do they take the same position today, as it is presented, that they support the proposed height and density? The estimated height of this eight storey building with the clock tower is 30 metres. To give an idea of what that would look like, drive by LJM Waterview Phase 1, it’s close to 30 metres. Does this fit downtown? I think not. The developer’s parking study (Crozier) uses surrogate sites that are suburban, not a small downtown main street, in a lower density area without heritage constraints. The properties are surrounded by large feeder/multi-lane arterial roads, unlike Grimsby’s narrow 18 metre wide two lanes of traffic. The surrogate buildings are rental apartments with no commercial units and have readily available transit. Grimsby has no transit. These factors lead one to question the validity of the ITE parking standards used to put forward the recommendation for reduced parking standards. As well, they are requesting only five accessible parking spots where eight is required, and only one loading space (on the alleyway), where three are required. I would put forward that there should be no reduction to the residential and visitor parking standard requirements as set out in the OP and Zoning By-Law. A Functional Servicing Report was not required as part of the complete application. Has the Town and Region confirmed with engineering that the existing sewer and water infrastructure are capable of handling the development (and future downtown development)? If not, will development not be permitted until upgrades have been done (like Winston)? Are there any capital costs in the budget to upgrade the infrastructure in this area on Main Street?
- Everyone is adamantly opposed – there is an election coming up.
- Parents picking up kids on Robinson St, it’s a circus.
- Has the developer done an environmental wildlife impact study for the migratory birds (hawks) and tall buildings?
Planning Committee and Staff Comments:
- The Director of Public Works has done a study and is confident in the capacity.
- Fire department will provide input and comments.
- This Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-Law Amendment provide an opportunity to get a first look and comment. Once it’s decided to be acceptable, it goes to site plan approval and a draft plan of condominium.
- Traffic – we will send the study to the consultants we use to do a peer review.
- The development application was deemed complete on January 10, 2018. A decision must be made within 180 days (July 9, 2018). If no decision, developer can apply to the OMB. It’s always better to make a decision because non-decisions leaves us with no Town planning report or decision by Council.
- Intensification – targets are in the OP. After 2015 all development will be intensification. 80% of development will be within the built boundary not greenfield.
- Employee parking – shared parking, not new. Mr. Ariens commented that 1.5/unit is oversupply in a downtown environment. The ITE parking standards are used. He noted that the alleyway is a hazard and would encourage the town to close it. He stated that “if we get the alleyway first, and we don’t get the development, what’s the point?” It cost $700K an acre to purchase Concord Ave. Makes sense to close the alley and consolidate lands.
- Pre-consultation – Mr. Seaman stated that, we provide advice about the OP, Zoning By-Law, CIP, design guidelines, incentives and maybe they’ll come back for a pre-consultation. All the agencies are invited to the meeting and we see the proposal. Sometimes they come close to the intent and sometimes they don’t. If they meet all the checklist, it’s complete. Contrary to what you hear in certain blogs, we have to accept it’s complete and consider it. We recognize this is the first application of its nature in downtown so we’re taking it seriously, providing advice. Actions speak louder than words – we’ve had 11 façade improvements downtown and 6 designations, the arch, stage, streetscaping, new waste receptacles, Doors Open. Downtown is important and we have SGL as a consultant to help with the planning justification. We are doing a heritage peer review. All of these things need to be done before we come up with a recommendation. No professional opinion has been rendered. No decision has been made.
- Alderman Wilson – Why not do four storeys over a greater area? It’s only 37% lot coverage now.
- Alderman Johnston – Saw picture at the March 1 Open House and Mr. DeSantis said he would listen. I really don’t think he did. Would have liked a four storey “resurrection.” Eight storeys does not fit. Aquablu is a wonderful building. Please listen.
- Member Agnew – Thank you to the citizens. Now we have a chance to do something with that vacant lot and preserve the historical character of downtown. Parking is always a problem, people use TD, GBF if they go to the Judge & Jester. Look at Lincoln Park, its four storeys and fits in. It is paramount we listen to taxpayers. Bring us back a prize winning four storey.
- Member Finch – The downtown is listed as a cultural heritage area. This doesn’t cut it/blend in. Doesn’t come close. If this is the best design your architects came up with, you paid too much money. Scale is just too big. If you come back with a three storey, it would blend in – “boutique apartments”, young people would buy. Don’t come back with something like this.
- Mayor Bentley – All good points. 228 years to the day was the first local meeting in Grimsby at the museum site, proud of our history. Doran Avenue impact needs to be considered, may not be enough room to widen. Greenbelt – should be two tier, this hasn’t been considered. We have an affordable housing issue. Don’t know that eight storeys is appropriate in the core. Look forward to rest of process.
- Alderman Seaborn – When condos charge for parking spaces, the second car usually ends up somewhere else, like in visitors. They won’t pay for it. This causes a “ripple effect” with other properties downtown. Would like to see no more than four. Do something spectacular, like the west end.
- Member Gillespie – Concerns with ingress/egress and alleyway. Doran Avenue, diminishing ability to move traffic, doesn’t matter eight or two storeys. Lots of time and money spent to set out sections in the OP for the downtown. This development does nothing to add to it, rather it diminishes it significantly. Three storeys would be more appropriate. Incompatible, can’t support it.
- Chair DiFlavio – Lots of good comments. Share concerns re: alleyway and safety. Emergency access is an issue. Restaurant parking in the evening – can’t look at that as complimentary. Need to take heritage seriously. It doesn’t meet the character of the rest of Main Street. Don’t support it.
You made it all the way down here! Sorry no prizes, but you are free to enter our Easter gift-certificate giveaway which ends on April 2nd!
We will keep you posted when we hear news on the future meetings for the “revised” design.