By Doug Hallett
A developer was accused by neighbours and by city councillors this week of trying to cram too many residential units into a site on Arkell Road.
The developer originally proposed a total of 78 units on three properties after demolishing the houses. When the owner of a fourth property died and the developer was able to buy this land as well, it changed its application to seek rezoning to allow it to build 216 units on what’s now a six-acre site.
The amended development proposal with 216 units is still “within the height and density envisioned” in the city’s Official Plan, said Astrid Clos, a planning consultant for the developer.The site is on the north side of Arkell, east of Gordon Street. The amended proposal is for 40 stacked townhouses to be built along the north and east sides of the site. Also proposed are 176 “multiple attached dwellings” to go in seven buildings in the centre and on the west side of the site.
“It appears they are trying to cram too many units into a small space,” said Coun. Bob Bell, agreeing with several neighbours who appeared as delegations.
“The whole concept reminds me of army barracks,” said delegate Mary Rife, who lives nearby on Arkell.
The developer is seeking several concessions from the normal requirements of the city’s zoning bylaw, related to such things as minimum sizes of private and common amenity areas and side yards.
“It is a tremendously huge gap between what we normally require and what is being requested,” noted Coun. Lise Burcher.
Ward 6 councillor Todd Dennis, whose ward includes this site, said he has been hearing quite a bit about this development proposal from his constituents. He said he is “hoping to see something better when it finally comes back to council for approval.”
Monday’s council meeting was the first time the rezoning application has come to council. It came without any recommendations from city planning staff. It was an opportunity for the public to voice concerns and for councillors to ask questions and make observations.
The proposed “Arkell Woods” development would have 303 parking spaces, of which 143 would be underground, Clos said.
Neighbours voiced numerous concerns Monday, including effects on their privacy, their property values, traffic safety, stormwater flows and well water safety. Objecting to the “drastic” change from 78 to 216 housing units, neighbour Brian Watson charged that the proposed development would be “a tumorous growth on our neighbourhood.”
“Our quality of life will be drastically changed,” with occupants of four-storey buildings able to look down on property where they’ve lived for 25 years, said his wife, Helena Watson. “It will be like living in a fish bowl.”
Marko Thom, who has lived in the area for only a couple of years, said he generally supports infill development. However, in this case the developer is “simply trying to build too big a development in too tiny a space,” he opined.
Thom said the developer should rethink the project and come back to council with a proposal that is less financially “self-serving.”
Bell was also concerned about the apparent intention of the developer to have waste from the development handled by a private collector, rather than by the city.
“It will likely be private collection,” Clos conceded when asked by Bell.
Bell said many Guelph condo owners have been complaining about having to pay through their property taxes for the city’s waste system while also having to pay for private collection, because of difficulties related to the conversion of the city’s collection system from bags to bins.
By Doug Hallett