Nothing gets the public out to a municipal council meeting quite like an issue that affects them personally.

Penetanguishene chambers had a number of attendees during a recent council meeting as a public meeting that focused on downtown and waterfront zoning was discussed.

In simple terms, the public meeting was to address three changes to a recent zoning bylaw for residential and commercial spaces on Main Street and in some side streets. Just shy of apologizing, planning and community development director Andrea Betty began the meeting with clarification for concerned parties.

“Over the past couple weeks, we’ve had a lot of questions come into the town about what this means,” Betty said. “I think we’ve heard in the past that planners sometimes use language that’s not well understood and I think this is one of those opportunities where we could have been clearer.”

Betty explained the first amendment pertaining to the permission for a multiple dwelling unit, “or as most people would recognize it, an apartment building.”

She admitted when the bylaw was updated last year, its wording allowed any building in the zone to convert to a full apartment including on ground floors where commercial stores would be; the main purpose of the public meeting and bylaw amendment was to simply return to the previous provision and stop existing ground floor spaces from being converted into residential.

“To provide clarity,” Betty emphasized to those in the chambers, “this does not impact any existing apartment buildings or multiple dwelling units in downtown. They can continue to operate; there’s no changes or anything that they have to do; there’s no risk to tenants in those buildings; they are legal.”

However, the amendment was limited to existing apartments and not to new and future developments that might occur. Betty made note of a recent economic development strategy and market gap study, adding: “This is incredibly important to the town to create a prosperous downtown, to have a cohesive commercial retail streetscape.”

The second amendment change clarified that one parking space per dwelling unit was provided for apartments above commercial stores, and the third amendment was to allow the town to consider exceptions for some areas of the downtown and waterfront zone that wanted to remain apartment-only buildings.

While no members of council had any questions during the public meeting, two building owners spoke up. One resident of Tessier Drive expressed thanks to Betty for addressing concerns, adding that intensification development in the downtown and waterfront zone made sense for the future.

Another building owner expressed concern on the second amendment that there wasn’t enough space at the back of the building on Tessier Court for parking needs during winter snow removal.

Later in the council meeting when the report was formally brought up, planning and community development services members Coun. George Vadeboncoeur and Doug Leroux asked Betty about the long and narrow length of some commercial spaces.

“Years ago we had looked at that,” said Leroux, “where it was indicated that we certainly would put commercial in the front of any type of building, but why not allow residential to the rear of commercial, providing that we have commercial on the main street?”

Betty replied that staff would look at that for a follow-up report to return to council.

Coun. Bill Waters said he was “greatly concerned” that a commercial space could change to residential.

“I’m against it,” said Waters. “And to say that you can have some residential on the back of a building because it’s bigger… perhaps if it’s really huge, but we have a large number of very small commercial properties on Main Street that are so small that you cannot make a living out of a 200-square-foot store.”

His comment was punctuated by an agreeing nod from the Tessier Court building owner.

With discussion ended, council voted to have staff return with a report for a future committee of the whole meeting which would address comments from the public meeting, including three additional letters from residents.

The report for the municipally-initiated zoning bylaw amendment on apartments in the downtown and waterfront zone can be found in the council agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 15, 2023 at 06:09

This item reprinted with permission from   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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