|Today's date: Friday May 24, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 21|
We Cover The County...
Proposed commercial rezoning concerns some residents
by Mike Robinson
A proposed rezoning has some residents concerned about the rights of residents being placed on the back burner in favour of commercial development.
A public meeting was held on Aug. 27 to consider the rezoning of 94 Wellington Road 7 in Elora from residential to highway commercial.
Centre Wellington director of planning Brett Salmon noted the property is adjacent to the Gorge Country Kitchen Restaurant near the southern edge of the Elora urban boundary.
Although listed as highway commercial within the official plan, the property zoning is residential. Salmon added the property was purchased by the family which owns the Gorge restaurant a few years ago.
Since then, there have been discussions on and off over the past few years regarding bringing an application forward to extend the highway commercial zoning, Salmon said.
There is highway zoning on both sides of Wellington Road 7 as far as Speers Road [and the west property south of the intersection]. On the east side the zoning currently extends as far as the restaurant, but on the back portion of the properties along Park Road, the land is zoned as industrial.
Salmon said what is being proposed would simply bring the property into line with the official plan.
He said there is currently no servicing along Wellington Road 7, but those do exist along Hamilton Street and along Park Road.
The intent is to extend services past the restaurant property to reach this land, Salmon said.
Councillor Fred Morris asked what the plans were to develop the property.
Salmon said the highway commercial zoning would allow a fair range of uses, many of which already exist in the area, such as limited retail use, hardware stores and laundromats.
He noted the proponents had submitted a concept plan with the application that included a multi-unit building.
Project architect James Fryett, speaking on behalf of the applicants, said the proposal is a few years into the process and based on its compatibility with the official plan.
Fryett said there was no specific proposal at this time.
“The owner wishes to deal with the land use issue first.”
In consultation with the municipality a scheme was developed for a multiple-unit building on the site to test the engineering feasibility of the project, Fryett said
Essentially, the property is at the end of the line for municipal services, he said.
“We had to demonstrate sanitary, storm and water services would be adequate for the property.”
Fryettt said “Until such time as we are really ready to move ahead with a specific proposal, this is theoretical in nature.” He said when a solid proposal comes forward, he would expect the project to go through a full site plan approval process.
Councillor Kelly Linton asked if the home currently on the site was designated as a heritage home.
“Not to our knowledge.”
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj noted there were two delegations registered to speak regarding the proposal.
Jeremy Hutten of Wellington Road 7 said it was interesting to hear the discussion and presentation.
“As it happens, we purchased the neighbouring property a few months ago, and moved in a few days ago - so this is all a big surprise for us.”
“Being the closest neighbour to this I thought I should say a few words.”
He believed the commercial aspect of the proposal made sense. But Hutten had a number of questions in his mind regarding the commercial zoning itself.
He wondered what type of restrictions would be in place and the impact a commercial enterprise would have on the enjoyment of his residential property.
Hutten said a shopping plaza only open during regular business hours is not the same thing as reception hall which could potentially be open all hours of the night.
He also hoped there would be provisions for a buffer area.
Salmon said different commercial zones are divided into different categories.
Salmon clarified that highway commercial zoning is for the type of uses appropriate for an arterial road such as County Road 7.
“It allows a limited type of retail use and restaurants.”
He noted banquet halls would be a permitted use.
Salmon commented that concerns regarding buffering are usually dealt with as part of the site plan.
“In terms of the site plan process, we would typically ask for lighting plans to ensure light does not spill onto abutting properties.
He stressed that when commercial properties abut residential properties, there is a buffer strip requirement which can be met by landscaping or a solid wall such as a fence.
It is something the zoning requires, but is dealt with through the site plan process.
Salmon said at this particular site, there are quite a few trees at the back, which is why a conceptual plan was requested - to see the extent of trees which might need to be removed to accommodate the proposal.
He said that even though the intent is to retain many of the trees at the back, some in the centre and along the perimeter would be removed.
A site plan would assess the value/condition of the trees.
He added that if the municipality was aware of a use such as a banquet hall, a noise assessment study would be required.
“But we are not at that stage with the site.
Lynne Anderson was the second delegation regarding the proposal. Anderson objected to the zoning amendment.
She has lived on a property two doors down for the past three decades and has seen County Road 7 transform from a fairly quiet location to a heavily travelled road.
“This is to be expected as times change as this is progress.”
She has seen businesses open “nearer and nearer to my tranquil country property.”
Some of those businesses now include a hardware store, beer store - “and all sorts of things along the strip.”
“While it is convenient for a lot of folks,” Anderson said that drawbacks include increased traffic and noise on the already busy highway.
“The noise is quite horrendous at times, especially during the Saturday evening tractor pull.”
Anderson suggested the current approach into Elora is not an attractive one.
“I strongly believe there are enough existing opportunities available for commercial development in Elora without changing a residential property zoning.”
She maintained that there are numerous commercial properties in town which have been vacant for quite some time - including a large area directly across the road from Tim Hortons.
“It’s been available for commercial development for several years.”
She asked why it was necessary to rezone and remove a century home where there are a lot of mature trees on the property.
“Is it just going to be knocked down.”
She said rumours are that this will be another strip mall and a bar.
“Will all these units be rented, or just sit there neglected.”
Anderson said that residential property owners should have a reasonable expectation that the homes purchased in a residential area will remain as such and not changed because it has convenient highway access.
“Is it really fair to ask homeowners to live next to strip malls and bars?”
She asked that council respect residential property owners and reject this proposal.
Fryett said his clients operate a successful business and are very concerned about the aesthetics of the site.
He stressed there is not a specific proposal at this stage.
He agreed that buffering and servicing are paramount to the development of the property.
Fryett added that the other issue is that this property is at the limit of what can be readily serviced which would deter further development to south without major servicing work.
Daniel Bratton, who lives along Wellington County Road 21 past the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, also voiced concern with the proposal.
He too, thought the trees at the front of the property are beautiful.
“It would be a crime if those trees were to be taken down. As one comes into Elora, they really do establish a mood. If you want strip malls, you can go to Cambridge or Mississauga. We don’t need them in this community.”
Bratton also doubted replantings would ever compensate for those trees.
While he agreed there was provision within the official plan for highway commercial “I would really like to believe something could be done to protect the trees at the front of the property if at all possible.”
Salmon noted that even going back 1991 and the Elora village official plan (prior to amalgamation), the property was designated as highway commercial.
The designation reflects a number of things, including the designation of areas surrounding the property. He added that it also reflects the edge of the commercial/industrial area for the community.
“This is an arterial road, so this is where our official plan says that highway commercial properties should be developed.”
Salmon also anticipated that at some point Wellington Road 7 will eventually be enlarged to a three or four lane road coming into Elora.
“Logically, that will probably start at Speers Road.”
September 7, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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