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City council had deferred making a recommendation on a proposed dental office development on Perth East land just outside of Stratford's municipal boundary.
But based on discussion at this week's council meeting, it's likely the city will not support the development – a two story professional office building on the south side of Ontario Street directly to the east of Canadian Tire. The vacant land will be annexed to Stratford in 2019.
Perth East township council will consider two applications related to the development later this month, and is asking for the city's opinion before coming to any decisions. Council is expected to make its recommendation next week.
The city's planning department is recommending the development be opposed for multiple reasons.
Manager of development services, Jeff Leunissen, said it is premature to permit development on land scheduled to be incorporated into the city before there are studies completed and policies established for the entire annexed areas. Developing land with private water, sanitary, and storm services is also inconsistent with the city's Official Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement, he added.
Additionally, Leunissen noted if the project was to move ahead there would likely be some financial implications for the city, including the loss of taxes, development charges, and cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication, to Perth East.
Stratford dentist Mark Straus, who currently owns and operates a practice on Ontario Street, came before council to explain why he is looking to build a new office outside of the city. He said his practice has 2,400 active patients and is growing each year by 150-200 more patients, many of whom are seniors. Additional space is needed to accommodate them as well as new equipment, he said.
Straus noted the lease at his current office ends on Dec. 1, 2016, and that he's been looking for a new location in Stratford that has adequate parking and access for seniors for the last two years. In that time he has worked with municipal officials and real estate companies and made offers on more than one property, but has been unsuccessful.
The development would be a "win-win" scenario, he added, noting he would be able to provide optimal dental care to residents while the municipality would get a state-of-the-art building at the gateway to the city.
Straus also indicated he was willing to connect the building into municipal services at his own cost as soon as they are available. However, Leunissen noted the city isn't sure if the servicing is adequate for extension or whether it requires upgrading first.
Caroline Baker, a land use planner with GSP Group who spoke on behalf of the applicants, said the building would add to the urban character of the area, which already includes car dealerships, hardware stores, a hotel, and church, among other uses. She also suggested it would be infilling, rather than fringe development, because of the existing commercial buildings on that stretch of road.
The majority of councillors who weighed in indicated they would not support the proposed development. Coun. George Brown said he might be in favor if the township was willing to share some of the tax revenue, while Coun. Tom Clifford also wondered if the city could receive part of the development charges and parkland. That discussion led CAO Ron Shaw to suggest council defer its decision until next week so he can review the city's annexation agreement with the township.
Coun. Bonnie Henderson, meanwhile, questioned whether the location was best for seniors or anyone taking the bus.
"They're going to walk from Sears? I'm sorry, I'm in a seniors frame of mind now, and I don't like walking that much," she said.
In the event Perth East approves the development, Leunissen is also asking council to recommend a series of conditions including the building conform with the city's draft Urban Design and Landscape Guidelines, be limited to one driveway from Ontario Street, and that it require future joint access with abutting properties like Canadian Tire for vehicle and pedestrians.
Leunissen said whether this development move forward or not will have on impact on other proposed lands to be annexed to Stratford.
"This would set a precedent for how some of those other lands will be looked at."