Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Over 100 south-end residents are the latest group to oppose a planned 29-unit apartment development.
A petition with 113 signatures, most from residents of Patricia Road and Kathryn and Redford crescents, was presented to city council last week. The residents are concerned about the impact of increased traffic to their neighbourhood if two new apartment buildings are allowed to be built on St. Vincent Street South on the land last occupied by Portia school.
The development calls for the former school to be converted into a 24-unit apartment building and for a new five-unit building to the north.
Nick Forte of McFarlane Street said St. Vincent is already a busy street that accommodates city transit buses, school buses to two nearby elementary schools, garbage trucks, and is a thoroughfare for EMS to the hospital.
Adding to that mix the vehicles related to the proposed buildings and you have a “greater and greater unsafe area,” he added, noting the street is also used frequently by cyclists.
St. Vincent homeowner, Joan Roddick, said she was worried about the safety of children, noting she won’t even back out of her driveway between 8:30-9 a.m. because of the number of kids walking to school.
Roddick added she is also worried about parking on the street, noting the plan currently calls for 46 parking spaces but doesn’t account for any visitors.
Manager of development services for the city, Jeff Leunissen, noted St. Vincent is a collector road and, based on the city’s transportation master plan, is currently operating at less than 70 per cent capacity.
“This (development) is not going to push St. Vincent to beyond capacity. It’s well within its designed parameters,” he added.
At last Monday’s meeting, councillors granted Pol Quality Homes the necessary rezoning while sitting as the planning and heritage committee. The rezoning, which includes a three per cent reduction in the development’s open space, still requires final approval from city council before moving to the site plan stage.
Three councillors, George Brown, Frank Mark and Karen Smythe, voted against the rezoning, which has also run into opposition from nearby auto parts manufacturer Stackpole International.
The company opposes what it says is an intensification of residential housing in the neighbourhood, and is worried about having to deal with additional noise complaints it will generate.
Stackpole’s legal representative, Kathleen DeBlock Boersma, said unlike the school that was open mostly during business hours, the apartments will be occupied at all times of the day, and that the noise will be a nuisance particularly at night.
Planner Caroline Baker spoke on behalf of Pol Quality Homes, and noted the company is prepared to implement noise mitigating measures including HVAC systems, double glazed windows and solid rock drywall.
“All of these things will make a significant difference on the noise impact,” she noted, adding the contractor is also prepared to build a three-metre high board fence instead of the initially proposed two-metres to help block out noise.
But while DeBlock Boersma suggested the steps the applicant has agreed to take, including adding a noise clause to the buildings’ rental agreements, are good, “they’re not going to solve the problem.”
And while Stackpole is legally protected by having the noise clause on the rental agreements, she noted the company wants to be a good neighbour and responds to each complaint.
“They don’t want neighbouring residents going around town and spreading these negative comments about Stackpole not listening to them,” she added.
While no numbers have been provided that indicant how much noise Stackpole produces, a study submitted by the applicant and prepared by Novus
Environmental indicates the level will not exceed the Ministry of the Environment parameters that were set based on existing residential housing that abut the facility.
Still, Coun. Brown said the contractor should go “above and beyond” to mitigate any noise concerns, adding Stackpole should be able to operate without having to constantly defend itself.
Though the petition from residents focused on traffic, Roddick, whose home abuts the factory, also addressed the noise issue, describing the sound coming from the factory as a “constant hum” that is considerably worse when the trucks release their air breaks.
“I have a privacy fence and it does a lot for me when I’m in the backyard. But on my second floor when I try to open my windows, I can’t sleep at night,” she said.
There were also questions about whether the development would have sufficient space for kids to play.
Baker said any discussions related to amenities on site would be dealt with through the site plan stage, but noted recreational facilities are available at the two nearby schools.
Development services manager, Leunissen, also noted there is a public park at the corner of St. Vincent and Lorne Avenue but suggested apartments of the size proposed tend to have fewer children than townhouses and other dwellings.
It was also noted at the meeting the city has had some preliminary talks with the applicant about the apartments being used for affordable housing.
And even if the development doesn’t fit within the city’s social services program, Baker said the intention is to offer affordable rental units.
In light of that possibility, Coun. Bonnie Henderson said it’s all the more important that the noise issue be addressed properly, adding, “I’d hate to see people who can’t afford to be moving ... be in a home that’s loud all the time.”