Fergus growth Supplied image

FERGUS ‒ Centre Wellington councilors share their resident’s concerns that increasing residential volume in the downtown core will lead to long-term problems. 

But that didn’t stop them from opening the door for a four-storey mixed-use apartment building at 350 St. Andrew St. W., during a regular council meeting Monday afternoon, approving a rezoning application to allow for four storeys.

While councilors shared community concerns about parking, traffic, and maintaining the area’s heritage, a need for additional affordable housing units was the driving force behind the approval. 

“A majority of the oral and written submissions (from the public) were in opposition to the application and expressed concerns,” said Mariana Iglesias, manager of planning services, in the report. “(But) there was general consensus about the need for more housing options and supply (in Centre Wellington), specifically rental units.”

Replacing an existing vacant building next to Melville United Church, the proposed unit will feature a mix of bachelor, one and two-bedroom units with a price range of $1,080 to $2,100 depending on the size.

Included in it will be a rooftop amenity area, balconies for some units, indoor bicycle storage and 21 parking spaces, the ground floor is intended to house commercial units.

“The overall redevelopment plan will provide approximately 36 residential rental units…that are accessible by elevator and within walking distance of downtown amenities,” said Iglesias, in the report. “Intensifying an otherwise underutilized site in order to help fill the immediate need for rental housing (in Centre Wellington).”

Removing the proposed fifth storey to address volume concerns, the developer, Eric Van Grootheest, promised to continue making changes based on community feedback following a public meeting in April and an informal community meeting in December.

Grootheest is also in talks with Melville Church to transfer a piece of their land to allow access to a road on the east side of their property. Members of the church previously brought up concerns that increased traffic will impact the many community groups who use the space on a regular basis. 

Coun. Lisa MacDonald shared their worry that the easement will overwhelm the area.

“Just in my experience in Centre Wellington with shared drives, they never seem to work out,” said MacDonald. “So I have some concerns when it comes to that.” 

But Coun. Jennifer Adams questioned whether a municipal easement would allow for more parking. 

“It’d be great if we got additional parking, obviously parking is an issue,” said Coun. Adams. “We’ve heard the complaints.” 

Coun. Barb Lustgarten-Evoy is “okay” with the proposal but only if the developer hears community comments and honours the requests of Heritage Centre Wellington to “maintain the very important feel” of the area. 

“We cannot continue growth without addressing the concerns of the people that already live there…I’ve received a great amount of comments and almost all of them have been with regards to parking as opposed to the heritage space,” said Lustgarten-Evoy. “(Someone asked me) ‘Is it going to be ‘just one more storey all the time.’”

She also insisted that public concerns about parking “move to the very front of all discussion” as site planning begins. 

Other comments suggested the height proposed is more appropriate outside the downtown core area. 

However, Iglesias noted that four-storeys are already allowed in Fergus, as long as it isn’t located on St. Andrew Street between Tower Road and St. David.  

“That one strip of land cannot have fully residential but anywhere else in the central business district you can have a four-storey residential building,” said Iglesias. 

Future designs will be reviewed at a site plan stage including the opportunity to develop a trail system “along each property.”

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

By Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 26, 2023 at 18:54

This item reprinted with permission from   GuelphToday.com   Guelph, Ontario
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