Residents now alone in opposition to apartments
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Sep 11, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Residents now alone in opposition to apartments

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

The City of Stratford has withdrawn its opposition towards a south-end apartment proposal that is presently before the Ontario Municipal Board and continues to draw ire from residents in the neighborhood.

Municipal councillors, while sitting as the planning and heritage committee Monday evening, voted 6-4 in support of a revised zone change application from Pol Quality Homes for the property at 431 St. Vincent St. S. Council must still vote on the matter.

The redevelopment plan is of a lower density and height than what was originally presented and ultimately rejected by city council last year, prompting an appeal. The plan now calls for two two-storey apartments buildings, one using the vacant school on the property, for a total of 24 units.

Coun. Bonnie Henderson said she supports the proposal because she sees a need for more affordable housing in Stratford.

"I know many people are looking for apartments," she noted, adding she also likes that the development would re-use the old school, reducing the amount of waste.

Henderson lives in the neighbourhood and said she can appreciate her neighbours' concerns about increased traffic and the potential safety risk that poses to children. But she suggested it could be worse, noting under the site's current zoning a builder could come along and construct up to five semi-detached dwellings with 10 driveways.

The revised plan is the result of an agreement that was reached on the first day of the OMB hearing back in June between Pol Quality Homes and Stackpole International, which has a manufacturing plant that backs onto the subject property.

Stackpole objected to the initial proposal to build a five-unit apartment building and to convert the old school into a three-storey 24-unit dwelling. The manufacturer was worried about apartment residents complaining about the noise from the plant.

Coun. Keith Culliton said the builder has shown a willingness to make changes and should be allowed to proceed.

In addition to reducing the height of the buildings and total number of units, Pol Quality Homes has offered to implement noise mitigating measures in the construction of the buildings including air conditioning, double glazed windows, a primarily brick facade, and an eight-foot solid wood fence.  A noise warning clause would also be added to title and to any lease agreements.

"I think he's been more than reasonable," Culliton said about the builder.

But there remains opposition from neighbourhood residents, some of whom are scheduled as delegations for when the OMB hearing resumes in Stratford on Oct. 7.

Approximately 118 citizens have signed a petition opposing the rezoning.

The hearing is scheduled for three days but will likely be shortened now that the city has dropped its objections, which centred around noise impacts in relation to Stackpole, traffic, reduce green space, and lack of space for children to play on the property.

A shortened hearing should also save the city some money. The proceedings were supposed to cost the city upwards of $30,000 because it had to engage an outside planner to defend its position. That's because the city's own planning staff recommended approval of the original rezoning application.

It's expected that legal counsel for Stratford will now appear to advise the board of the city's new position.

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