Neighbours raise concerns about 16-unit development on Minto Street in Clifford

MINTO – A proposal for a 16-unit townhouse development on less than an acre of land in Clifford has raised concerns about density, parking, drainage, lot coverage and future infrastructure needs among neighbouring residents and about servicing costs from Minto staff.

Developers Josh, David and Alfred Theissen are seeking to rezone a vacant .98-acre lot at 24 Minto Street North from residential (R1B) to site-specific holding residential to facilitate construction of four, four-unit street townhomes. 

The amendment would allow a reduced lot area of 240 square metres (2,583 ft2) per dwelling unit and an increased lot coverage of 55 per cent.

Minto director of building and planning Terry Kuipers pointed out additional planning applications will be needed in the future in order for the development to happen.

“The R2 zone only permits one four-unit street townhouse. So in order to facilitate the four that’s being proposed, prior to the issuance of more than one building permit they’d have to separate the property into the four blocks,” Kuipers explained.

“The other thing to know is that there is no municipal water, sanitary or storm (infrastructure) within Queen Street. So, in order for this development to proceed, those would have to be installed/constructed and that’s the rationale for the hold on it.”

Kuipers added, “The hold is put on it to prevent any development whatsoever on the property. So not even a single family (home) could go ahead until the hold is lifted, which means the servicing would have to be provided.”

Triton Engineering senior planner Bill White described the development as “medium density” and said it complies with both provincial policy and the County of Wellington Official Plan.

“It is a little bit higher than the general policy requirement in the county official plan, but it’s much closer to medium density than high density in terms of the number of units per hectare,” said White.

“Provincial planning policy certainly is encouraging intensification, reuse, or redevelopment of lands for more than one unit. So the single family dwelling zoning that’s on there now is dated and really not applicable, because where there’s municipal services, you’re certainly allowed to have upwards of three units subject to certain criteria.”

White added, “So, we certainly believe that the proposal is compliant with provincial policy, as well as the county official plan.

“The director of planning is correct in saying that there is no water and sewer available to this property at this time. We also know that there’s no sidewalks; the road is in poor condition. It’s been in need of replacement or upgrade for some time.”

White said the developers are willing to participate in the upgrades “either through some kind of front-end agreement to be negotiated with the town, or by trying to find partners and adjacent owners who may choose to develop at the same time.” 

He also noted the developers  “certainly support the holding provision that’s been recommended.”

Josh Theissen told council his father has owned the land for 30 years and bought it with the intention to develop it.

“It seems like now is a good time to develop,” he said, adding the developers intend to keep the homes affordable.

“Anything … over 500 grand now …  is impossible for people on 25 bucks an hour, dual income, to afford these days,” said Theissen.

“So the idea for us was, let’s put in something nice, a townhouse or a nice starter or retirement home for folks. Put it in around the $500,000 range.”

Anne Street resident Mark Johnson, whose home backs onto the proposed development, said several of his neighbours “had the same concerns” but were unable to attend the meeting.

While conceding “we do need to help younger folks be able to afford housing,” Johnson said his concern is that the development is “going to be very crowded.

“If you look at all around Clifford, the average street has five to six homes built on it and I’m quite worried that if you’re going to try and jam four fourplexes onto that one small area that it’s going to be too much and I think it’s going to affect values of property,” he added.

Johnson said he and other neighbouring residents are also concerned about the height of the proposed buildings.

“I don’t know what the buildings are going to look like and there’s nothing else like this in Clifford … that’s my concern, my neighbours’ concerns, height wise. All of us enjoy the sunsets from that side … It all seems like small things that we’re concerned about, but in the long run, I think (the concern) is the congestion and the size that you’re trying to jam into that one small spot,” Johnson stated.

Theissen said the developers are planning on one-story bungalow-style buildings.

“But having said that, as we go through this process if we were to go to two-story and we thought that  … would be better for the market or saleable, then we shorten up those foundations and we’d have a bigger backyard,” he noted.

In a letter to council, local resident Jim Hill called the proposal “extreme overbuilding on a one-acre plot of land.”

“With 16 families living there, with about 20 to 30 cars, not to mention boats, campers, ATVs and even parking for visitors, service workers and delivery vehicles, Queen Street West from Minto Street North to Elora Street North could become very busy,” Hill stated.

“This is not fair to people living on these streets, many of them with small children.”

He also questioned if the area has adequate drainage to support the additional development, as well as the impact on future infrastructure needs.

‘Advantage’ for owners

“While I understand the need for housing and progress in Minto, I feel rezoning would give property owners the advantage to apply pressure on town council to do the upgrades to Queen Street and Minto Street at the cost of millions of dollars,” Hill wrote.

A Minto building department report notes a cost estimate completed by Triton Engineering puts the servicing work necessary for the development at close to $660,000.

“Town staffs’ position remains that this development is not currently budgeted for and, at this point in time, the town does not have funds to contribute for the development,” the report states.

 The report also notes that while a one acre parcel of town-owned property at the end of Ann Street could benefit from the servicing work, “the town does not currently intend to develop this parcel due to the costs associated with doing so.”

Council received the building department report on the project as information.