Bungalofts proposed on Barrie St.
Back in 1999, neighbours opposed and blocked the development of a 6-storey, 80-unit adult lifestyle condominium on the properties at 281 and 263 Barrie St.
But times have changed. New Provincial Policy and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe demand higher density and intensification within the urban boundaries, to prevent urban sprawl.
And the property at 263 Barrie, currently designated Residential and zoned Neighbourhood Commercial, is now the subject of a Zoning By-law Amendment application to permit the construction of 14 “bungaloft” condos on a private road, with 5 visitor parking spaces, minimal landscaping, and a shared side walk - a housing density of 38.9 units per hectare, on the 0.36 ha parcel.
Developer Serena Homes has requested 9 amendments to the zoning by-law for the condos – including a reduction in minimum lot area from 170 sq. m. to 141.05 sq. m., minimum front yard from 3 m. to 1.721 m., and minimum rear yard from 6 metres to only 0.711 metres. The developer is also asking permission for private garages to be located closer to the property line than the main building facade, and driveway widths to be reduced from 3 m to 2.7 m.
Senior Planner Alan Wiebe noted that the proposals are “still under review by our engineering consultant,” in particular the grading plan. Not only are retaining walls proposed, the developer is asking for an alteration of the grade within the adjacent Lions Park, near the west entrance - impacting trees, a children's play area and a baseball diamond.
Wiebe noted that the application is also under review by the LSRCA, and that Fire & Emergency Services has requested that the private road be designated a Fire Access Route, with No Parking on either side.
Brandi Clement, with The Jones Consulting Group, described the 'bungaloft” townhome condos – each of which has a 450 to 500 sq. ft. loft area - as geared “towards people who want to downsize.”
Clement told Council, “This is a more affordable product. This is an efficient use of the land,” conforming with both Places to Grow and Provincial Policy, and compatible with surrounding uses.
Local resident Donna Gustafson disagreed, arguing there is “no justification” for increasing the density in what is a “clearly low density” neighbourhood. Building only 8 townhouses, she said, would eliminate the need for “numerous exceptions” to the Zoning By-law – including a more than 88% reduction in the rear yard setback.
“If such significant deviations are to be allowed... what are we going to see for future proposals?” Gustafson asked, warning against setting a precedent. She called the proposal “unwelcome and abhorrent... It significantly changes the face of our neighbourhoods. This proposal goes too far.”
She also asked why, if it is geared towards seniors downsizing, there was no handicapped parking proposed.
Her husband, John Patsalides, was critical of the artist's concept for the condos. “It is so dense, that the first time I looked at it, it reminded me of a storage facility,” Patsalides said – referring to the row of garages projecting beyond the north-facing facade.
He noted that a 2.7 m driveway could accommodate a Smart car but not a van or even midsized vehicle – and urged the developer to scale down the design, provide better access and connection to Lions Park, improve parking and create a more inviting appearance. “It is too much on a small lot,” Patsalides said. “Go for the good and the beautiful, not the greedy and the ugly.”
The proposal appeared to have some Council support.
Councillor Gary Lamb said he had observed similar developments out in Vancouver. “They have lots of this type of housing out there... We need to consider this.”
Speaking for Serena Homes, Karim Lalji noted that the original proposal for the property was a “beautiful” 30-unit stacked townhome, that was reduced to 18 bungaloft units, and now 14, “so we can accommodate more parking.”
Lalji told Council, “We try to create a balance between people and municipalities,” catering to people looking for “a beautiful living space, rather than being in a high-rise condo.”
“I really like this proposal,” enthused Deputy Mayor James Leduc. “It's for a different need in our community. This gives us at least 14 units of different stock... This is what I like to see in our community. We do zoning amendments all the time.” Rather than criticizing the appearance, Leduc said, “I love that look... I look forward to seeing this pushed through.”
“Nine exceptions, you've got to be kidding me. That was my first reaction,” said Councillor Gary Baynes, but then, he said, “we really need a mix of housing.”
Baynes asked about the impact of the grading on the existing trees in the park – a query echoed by Councillor Mark Contois.
Clement said that the impact of the grading is still under review, but “we would try to minimize that as much as we can.”
And asked about affordability, Laljee would only say, “We're trying to keep this as low as possible.”
“I'm a tree hugger. I want to see 100% of these trees saved,” said Contois, adding that he would expect the developer to keep prices low, “when we give these kinds of concessions.”
No decisions were made at the meeting. The comments and concerns were directed to staff for review, and a future report and recommendation to Council.