Council seeks compromise on ground floor apartments in Palmerston core

Council here opposes an official plan amendment that would have allowed the creation of apartments covering the ground floor of a building in Palmerston’s downtown core. However, council is willing to compromise.

Ed and Sandra Pinkse are seeking an official plan amendment that would change the designation on 107 William Street from central business district to residential transition.

The change would allow residential, as well as non-retail commercial uses. Presently, the building contains apartments on the upper floor and a bakery operation on a portion of the lower floor. About two-thirds of the lower floor is vacant and the Pinkses have experienced difficulty obtaining insurance due to the high percentage of vacant space.

In a motion opposing the amendment at the June 4 meeting, council included direction to county planning staff to meet with the applicant and town staff and bring back for consideration a compromise zoning that would allow a larger part of the ground floor to be used as residential.

Because the application involves removing storefront commercial uses from the central commercial zone, members of the Palmerston Downtown Revitalization Committee registered their opposition to the plan at a public meeting on April 15.

“We want to work with Ed and Sandra as well as our revitalization group and the planners,” said deputy mayor Terry Fisk.

In a report to council, Wellington County manager of planning and environment Mark Van Patter noted William Street “does make a significant contribution” to the core business district in Palmerston, which also includes Main, Bell and James Street business areas.

“In my opinion, approval of the Official Plan amendment could have a negative impact on a reasonably healthy, commercial street and could act as a precedent,” said Van Patter, adding he could support an increase in the ground floor residential use area above the current maximum of 49 per cent.

“This would help the Pinkses to develop two apartments. While this may not be the perfect solution for the Pinkses, it benefits them beyond the town standard. It also keeps a minimum of commercial at street level. It does not set a precedent,” he stated.

Ed Pinkse told council that, while the compromise solution isn’t ideal, it’s better than the status quo.

“We’d prefer it the way we applied for it … If the compromise is there, we live with what we have to and do what we can,” he stated.

Pinkse noted the entire ground floor of the building next door to his consists of residential units.

“It’s zoned the same, C1,” he pointed out.

Van Patter responded that granting the Pinkses’ request could encourage others to seek similar concessions.

“It can set a precedent. Mr. Pinkse just pointed to the building next door as a precedent to allow him,” said Van Patter, who was unable to shed much light on how the neighbouring property became residential.

“I don’t’ know the history … it’s an old downtown building, at some point, somebody converted to residential. I don’t know if that was before the official plan policies were in place on not.”

Van Patter stressed that while he has his position, the decision was up to council.

“A lot of this is just judgment on all of our parts – the best judgment we can make – so, it’s not like it’s a science or anything. And council could take a different position than I’ve got. You’re local. You know Palmerston probably better than I do – you might have a different conclusion than I do.”

Van Patter said he expected the county’s planning and development committee will consider the application at its June 12 meeting.