WELLINGTON NORTH – Township council has approved a zoning change to allow construction of a six-unit cluster townhouse on Cork Street in Mount Forest.
Developers Josh Albano and Peter MacKenzie requested an amendment to change zoning – from R2 Residential to R3 Residential – on a 3.2-hectare property at 350 Cork Street.
The rezoning bylaw, approved by council in a 3-2 recorded vote on Aug. 10, also contains site specific provisions to provide relief from the minimum setback to a municipal drain and the required buffer area on the rear lot line.
During discussion of a report on the zoning application from County of Wellington planner Matthieu Daoust, councillors Dan Yake and Sherry Buke raised objections to the proposal.
“I still have concerns about emergency services, stormwater management, ditch maintenance, compatibility,” said Yake.
He added he feels “compatibility” with the surrounding neighbourhood is a key issue.
“I think we’re squeezing something into a tight spot there that may not be suitable for that location,” Yake stated.
“I have a lot of the same concerns that Dan has already addressed,” said Burke.
“But the other concern I have is that the building is going to be oversized for the lot so they’re asking for relief for buffering as well.
“And I just think if they built something that was a little more suitable for that property – I think I read that they could get away with four units as opposed to six and still meet some of those requirements – that would make it fit better.”
Councillor Steve McCabe asked if the zoning amendment would be needed if only four units were proposed.
Chief building official Darren Jones explained that while current zoning allows a four-unit townhouse, with all four units fronting on Cork Street, an amendment would still be needed to allow a cluster-style development with a single Cork Street access.
Mayor Andy Lennox said, “I think this is a particularly interesting application in that it represents some of the things that we talked about as needs in our community.
“Things like purpose-built rental which we know is in extremely short supply and this helps to work toward addressing that need to some extent.”’
He added, “I think the other piece that’s really important as well is that we communicate to the development community that we wanted to see infill and we wanted to see a little higher density to bring the price point down for our residents, because we know that people at the bottom end of the market are finding affordability a huge issue.”
Lennox continued, “I understand the neighbours’ concerns around the compatibility piece.
“They’ve had quite a number of years of having an open, undeveloped lot in their backyard and to move to a townhouse that will be fenced off from a privacy perspective is a big change for them.
“And yet it represents so much of the things that we’ve identified that we need in our community.”
The mayor pointed out turning down the proposal “sends a message to other potential developments and may discourage it.”
“I think this is just one of those (projects) that checks so many of the boxes that we believe we need in our community and does it on existing services which helps reduce the cost of water and sewer services for everybody long term,” said Lennox.
“I think that if we balance the good that we need for the community with the negative that [neighbours] may experience, I think it comes out on a positive.”
Yake replied, “I don’t disagree with anything that you’ve said, Mayor Lennox, with density and the need for affordable housing … I agree 100 per cent.”
However, Yake added, “There has to be a plan, a good plan and I don’t think we can start putting higher density housing in places just helter skelter and that’s what I think has happened with this development …
“I agree with everything you’ve said, but this is the wrong place for this type of development.”
Burke agreed with Yake.
“I think that infill lots should be more consistent with the neighborhoods, that the builds should be consistent,” she stated.
“I still have extreme concerns about that drainage ditch. It drains several properties back behind there. It’s not going to just affect one or two neighbors or that particular site.”
Burke also agreed with Lennox’s comments on affordable housing for first-time buyers, renters or seniors, “But this isn’t the appropriate place for it,” she said.
In response to a question from Yake about buffering relief, Daoust explained “the applicant says there are already mature trees in that area in the back portion.
“As well, as just given the sight lines of the residents on that other street, it wouldn’t really impact the houses on the neighboring sideroad given that it’s simply just grass area.”
“It’s still not clear, really,” said Yake.
“We’ve already been adamant … that when there’s neighbours’ concerns about development that buffering, whether it be mounds, trees or fences, be required.”
Albano explained there will be decks on all the back units and also a fence across the back properties.
He said the developers “would be fine” with adding additional buffering but did not feel it was required.
He also noted additional fencing would require cutting down more mature trees.
Albano acknowledged some neighbours have concerns with the project.
“On the contrary, we’ve had a lot of the community reach out to us and say this is what they want and so we planned this property so that it would please future residents of Mount Forest,” he said.
Albano pointed out the developers had over 100 applicants to rent a similar six-unit complex on Queen Street.
“So there’s a big need for this in the community,” he said, adding “every single resident that we actually took as tenants were seniors in the community.
“They owned farms or houses and they were in desperate need of somewhere to retire.”
Albano said he didn’t see how limiting the development to four units would change things from a neighbours’ perspective.
“I don’t understand how it would look any different to the neighbors,” he said.
“I understand if they would say nothing could be built there, then yeah, it is a beautiful area and there’s nice trees that we have to take down.
“But it is our property, and this is what we find would be best fitting for the area.”
A letter from Waterloo Street residents Chris McGaughey and Noelle Jones stated the Queen Street property was “built with little regard to the neighbours in that area and has ruined any privacy for them.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to be living in one of those houses with those buildings in my backyard,” the letter states.
“The neighbours surrounding 350 Cork Street obviously have some valid concerns and by remaining in R2 zoning and only building four townhouses would give them a lot more room to address all of these concerns and respect the neighbours that live here.”
A motion to accept the report and the correspondence was approved in a recorded vote, with Lennox, McCabe and councillor Lisa Hern in favour and Yake and Burke opposed.
Later in the meeting, council approved the rezoning bylaw.