Council considering new apartment building in Mount Forest

WELLINGTON NORTH – Council here is considering whether or not to pass a zoning bylaw amendment, which would allow for the construction of a proposed two-storey apartment building at 773 Princess Street in Mount Forest.

The building, proposed by Archcon Group Inc., was the subject of a public meeting on Aug. 23.

Members of council will need decide whether or not to rezone the land from medium density residential (R2) to high density residential (R3) to allow for the construction of the 32-unit building.

The property, which is 1.6 acres in size and currently vacant, is in close proximity to Cork Street Park, the Mount Forest Sports Complex, and the Louise Marshall Hospital.

The proposed building would consist of 14 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units, and 48 parking spaces.

A report from township planning staff shared no concerns with the application for the building, as it was deemed to be “consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Growth Plan, and meets the criteria of the county official plan.”

Andrea Sinclair, a partner and urban designer at MHBC Planning, presented to council on behalf of Archcon.

“We do think there really is a need for attainable rental housing in Mount Forest,” Sinclair said.

“We think it’s going to be a really nice addition to the neighbourhood and at two storeys, we believe it’s quite compatible with surrounding development.”

Sinclair noted that the previous three-storey building that occupied the now vacant land was located much closer to the surrounding property lines.

“This proposal exceeds the zoning setbacks, and will allow for landscaping as a buffer between.”

Sinclair added that the proposed apartment building is not meant to be a luxury rental.

“They really want this to be attainable to a large number of people who cannot find rental housing in the Mount Forest area,” she said.

A number of objections to the apartment building were raised by surrounding residents at the meeting. Concerns centered around traffic, safety, privacy, impact on property values in the area, and the building’s effect on the general ambience of the neighbourhood.

“Whatever decision is made is going to effect the neighbourhood permanently, for decades to come,” said Gianni Accettola, a nearby resident who raised privacy concerns related to the proposed building.

“There is a huge concern with privacy. The second storey is basically towering over the fence line. You can’t build a fence high enough to protect your privacy.”

Accettola said the building’s height could impact his family’s ability to enjoy their backyard.

“We’re afraid this is going to cause a fishbowl affect, and we’re not going to be able to enjoy our property,” he said.

Safety was also an issue of concern related to the proposed building.

“There is a safety threat to our many seniors, children, and families that walk on Princess Street,” said Cindy Gilbert, another nearby resident.

“There are no sidewalks, so people are forced to walk on the road. The proposed entrance way does not take into account the sightlines needed to safely ensure that these individuals on the road can be seen by drivers exiting and entering an apartment building.”

A draft bylaw had been included in the agenda for council to vote on, with township staff recommending council approve the rezoning bylaw amendment. However, Mayor Andy Lennox suggested council defer the recommendation, noting that further discussion is required on the matter, and to allow the applicant time to address the concerns raised by nearby residents.

“This will give time for staff and the applicant to work through some of the issues that may come out of tonight’s public meeting, to refine the proposal and hopefully get it to an acceptable state,” Lennox said.

“In terms of the process going forward, we will take all the information gathered this evening, the applicant will take it as well, and there will be further discussions before this comes back to council for a vote on the rezone.”

Council will revisit the matter at a future meeting.