Residents troubled by 18-unit cluster townhouse proposal in Mount Forest

KENILWORTH – Some residents are concerned about 18 cluster townhouse units proposed in Mount Forest.

“There are too many in the area,” nearby resident Rachel Kéry said, speaking of high density housing, at a Dec. 19 public meeting.

“I’m very concerned about the change in the tone of the community from predominately, on our street, single home dwellings.”

Her sentiments were echoed by others, including Dwight Rundle, a past Wellington Street East resident, who wrote to the township: “I am also concerned about the increased density of population that an 18-unit cluster of two-storey townhouses will mean as opposed to single family dwellings.”

The development is proposed by McTrach Capital and 427 Management Service Inc. on an acre-and-a-half of vacant land at 425 and 427 King Street East, narrowly situated between two detached residences.

The grassland is currently zoned “R2,” which could accommodate four-unit street townhouses or a four-plex, but needs to be rezoned to “R3” to permit higher density housing.

Ultimately the decision to approve the rezoning of the land, and thus the future construction of the townhouses, falls to council.

At the public meeting, county senior planner Matthieu Daoust, who is assisting with township planning matters, told council the proposal meets intensification targets and land use policy.

“Our goal is not to disturb anything, not to change anything,” said Farhan Mahood, acknowledging already existing nearby residences.

Mahood and Mazz Khan, both developers, said their families would be relocating from Guelph to Mount Forest and occupying some of the units.

Khan said, “our goal is to make everything work smoothly” with neighbouring residents, and added the group would not “create a neighbourhood that we would ourselves not live in.”

Kéry’s chief concerns focused on density (each unit will have three bedrooms) but she also mentioned concerns with a loss of greenspace, light and sound pollution, the potential for trespassing on her property, and garbage collection — “a huge concern of mine” — considering collection issues with the Wellington Housing Corporation units across the road from the proposed location, at 440 King Street East.

Khan responded, in part, that their goal is to create a property addressing all of Kéry’s concerns and noted garbage pickup would be done by a private service, not the county. Mahood said though he can grasp the issues, “there is a big housing crisis” their proposal could help address.
Barry Gingrich, who lives immediately next to the property on the west side, also aired numerous concerns at the public meeting.

“What the hell is going on?” he said rhetorically with a raised voice.

His concerns are primarily with privacy, setbacks, drainage and the removal of decades-old trees.

“You are affecting the sale price of my house, my property, when you do this,” Gingrich said.

“We already have across the road all the welfarians, I’m sorry,” he added, referring to the Wellington Housing Corporation property.

Khan offered to meet directly with Gingrich to talk more, explaining that he and Mahood are already working with a neighbour immediately to the east, and said a site plan application would address most of his concerns.

Tree removal, Khan said, is “a tricky one” but he noted the intention is not to remove any trees, calling them “majestic.”

Councillors Penny Renken and Sherry Burke asked about parking spaces (three per unit) and adjusting the location of the property entrance so as to not add to congestion from the Wellington Housing Corporation laneway.

H.D. Kéry, who identified himself as Rachel’s son, living at the same address, said the discussion seemed to focus heavily on the legality of the proposal, without considering desires of current land and home owners.

“I get the impression that … as neighbours we can say as much as we want and ultimately we’ll just get a ‘too bad, it’s happening anyways,’” the man said, questioning what leverage they had.

Rachel added, “I hear people using the words ‘when’ instead of ‘if’ so I just want to clarify: Is this already for sure happening or are you all going to still talk about it and consider the things that we said today?”

“There will be further refinements and revisions [that] come back to council before this is approved,” Mayor Andy Lennox responded.

“This is exactly the right time for dialogue.”

“Ultimately, council will have to decided whether they approve this or not, I’m not sure how else to address your question.”

Planning staff will consider feedback and return with a bylaw to approve the zoning amendment for a council vote. Next would be the site plan approval process.

“This is the start of the process; lots of work yet to do,” chief building official Darren Jones said at the meeting.

The public meeting is the only proactively public portion of the process.

Members of the public can delegate to council when it comes to the bylaw, but should council approve it, the rest happens at an internal staff level.

When the bylaw returns to council depends on when the developers return to the township with updated plans incorporating public meeting comments.