Council wants more public consultation; turns St. David Street proposal back to staff

FERGUS – Centre Wellington council sent an application for a five-storey mixed use building on St. David Street North back to the drawing board at its Oct. 16 committee of the whole meeting.

The original proposal in 2018 was for a six-storey retirement residence at 820 St. David Street North in Fergus.

But the developer has amended the proposal and now is seeking permission to build a five-storey building on the site, with ground floor commercial space and four floors of apartment units above.

Also on the site and included in the zoning are the Best Western hotel, a Burger King, a Tim Hortons and a gas station.

Managing director of planning and development Brett Salmon said there was a public meeting on the application in January of 2021.

“There were several concerns expressed in written and oral submissions regarding the proposed six-storey building height and the retirement residence use and whether such use was appropriate at this location,” Salmon wrote in his report.

He added there were no objections from Wellington County, the Grand River Conservation Authority or the Upper Grand District School Board at that time.

“However, a written submission was received on behalf of the St. Joseph Catholic School expressing concern that a six-storey building would cast shadow on the JK/SK play area adjacent to Strathallan Street,” Salmon noted.

Since then, a few things have happened.

The previous council amended the C2 Highway Commercial zone regulations in September 2022 to allow for residential dwellings above ground-floor businesses. This decision followed weeks of public consultation.

And, based on public feedback and the new zone regulations, the developer has scrapped the retirement home concept and lowered the building height to five storeys, with a plan for main floor commercial space and 45 units on the above four storeys.

The plan also includes 111 parking spaces that would be shared with the other businesses on the site.

Councillor Jennifer Adams said she is worried about traffic outside St. Joseph’s school across the road on Strathallan Street when parents drop off their kids.

Councillor Barbara Lustgarten-Evoy worried about the traffic on St. David Street, which is Highway 6.

Managing director of infrastructure services Colin Baker said they have spoken with the principal at St. Joseph’s and drop-off arrangements are being made with the adjacent St. Joseph Catholic Church.

There is also an adult crossing guard at the lights at the corner of St. David Street and Strathallan.

Councillor Bronwynne Wilton was concerned with the “quality of the space” for residents given that there are two drive-thru restaurants and a gas station on the site and very little amenity space to act as a buffer.

Councillor Lisa MacDonald proposed sending the application back to staff to investigate whether more public consultation was warranted.

“I think there should be more consultation,” MacDonald said. 

Councillor Denis Craddock questioned the rationale for taking it back to the public.

“Has the demographic changed? Or do you just want to make sure the public knows this is coming?” he asked.

“This is what intensification looks like,” added Mayor Shawn Watters. 

In the end, all but Craddock voted in favour of having staff re-examine the plan and determine if it had changed enough to bring it back for more public consultation.