Neighbours opposed to fourplex proposal on Robertson Street in Harriston

Minto council is taking a cautious approach after neighbours expressed concerns about a proposal to rezone a Robertson Street property to allow a two-unit dwelling or fourplex.

The property currently contains a single-family dwelling.

In a report presented at a public meeting on Jan. 19, building assistant Stacey Pennington explained an existing residential dwelling at 46 Robertson Street was a former legal non-conforming duplex. The purpose of the application is to allow conversion of the single-family dwelling into a legal duplex.

Chief building official Terry Kuipers explained the building lost legal non-conforming status during a period when it was not used as a two-unit dwelling for over year.

“Now the applicant is trying to legalize the two-unit use to the building. It is being operated as two separate units. There is no fire separation between the two so it’s definitely not a good thing and it’s something the applicant is trying to fix up,” said Kuipers.

Wellington County manager of planning and environment Mark Van Patter said the applicant, Nathan Harper, plans to buy the building from Christian Grotenhuis. Van Patter said he understands the sale is not conditional on the successful re-zoning.

“Mr. Harper indicates that there is a small possibility of replacing the building with a new fourplex in the longer term,” Van Patter explained in his report. “Council could chose to allow only the duplex and require a rezoning later for a fourplex, or chose to allow both now in the present application.”

CAO Bill White said the town received several letters from neighbourhood  residents, including Margaret Church, who expressed concerns about additional traffic that would be generated by the additional occupancy.

Another resident, Bob Harron, stated in a letter “the security and peaceful outdoor lifestyle that our property now has would be in jeopardy” if rezoning to allow a fourplex proceeds.

“The increase in vehicle traffic that a fourplex would generate in a neighbourhood that has small children and visiting grandchildren could be a safety concern,” stated Harron.

“Smoke from backyard campfires that already forces us indoors would most certainly increase. With these potential campfires comes late night noise, partying and music. Dogs barking at all hours is currently a problem that will only compound.”

Harron told council, “We also genuinely feel that the security of our property and personal assets may be a risk if we were to put forward a complaint to the town regarding late night noise, dogs, campfires, property conditions, and potential loud foul language.”

Another Robertson Street resident, Richard Lawson, said the street is already becoming busy without adding density.

“To add four more homes in the space that the rest of us call a single home is kind of ridiculous. Where do kids play? Where do you park your car?” Lawson added, “It’s a nice street. It’s quiet. The homes are old, they’re not too big … there’s a lot of senior citizens on our road. You go for a walk now and you have to dodge cars, dodge trucks, tractor trailers…”

Lawson, who has lived on the street for 10 years, also questioned how any restrictions on the development would be enforced.

“It’s zoned single family. It’s a duplex right now. It’s been a duplex from before I got here so if the town can’t keep a hold of that, what’s going to happen when it’s four and somebody starts to rent the basement without getting a legal permit? How’s the fire department gonna love that?”

Lawson said it was the quiet nature of the neighbourhood that originally drew him to it.

“A lot of us came here because it’s quiet. I’m happy here. I drive 100 kilometres to work,” he pointed out.

Councillor Ron Elliott said he would need further information before making a decision.

“I would have a very difficult time doing anything for this unless I see detailed information (and) at least talk to the applicant,” said Elliott.

The applicant did not attend the meeting, which upset Mayor George Bridge.

“We have questions for the applicant tonight and he’s not here and that really bothers me … I hope there’s a good reason why he’s not here because I almost think it’s a waste of the process,” the mayor stated.

Bridge also said that given the legal-non-conforming use as a duplex has lapsed, he’s not in favour of approving the rezoning. “If they don’t have that, I’d like to see it stay as single family. I think the neighbourhood has got enough density and the church is very busy,” said Bridge, noting the proximity of the subject property to the Crossroads Community Church.

“We have the ambulance there, there’s a lot of things; it’s a narrow street … I understand provincial guidelines and on a planning issue we’re to look at intensification … but in this case I think we have a little bit of a realm of ability at the council level to control that a bit … this one doesn’t fit in my mind.”

In terms of process, White explained, no draft zoning amendment has been prepared at this point. He said a record will be made of the public meeting and “at some point the planner and building staff will speak to the applicant and report back to council on what the options are, but there’s pretty clear opposition, at the very least to the fourplex.”

White said notice will be given if a bylaw is presented “to actually change the zoning.”