By Jessica Lovell
A group of neighbours of the former Family and Children’s Services building on Delhi Street want the building’s new owners to reconsider their plan to put a parking lot in the front yard.
“We’re certainly not opposed to the redevelopment of that building,” said Delhi Street resident Jason Blokhuis. “We’re merely opposed to one aspect of Vesterra’s plan, and that’s to put a parking lot in the front yard.”
Vesterra Property Management bought the century-old building at 55 Delhi St. in the spring. It wants to turn it into 12 residential apartments – 10 units in the heritage building and two more in an addition.A planning justification report was also submitted to the city showing the need for 18 parking spaces – 13 of which Vesterra plans to locate in front of the building.
While the neighbours don’t necessarily want to start a confrontation with the building’s new owners, they are asking the city not to allow the parking lot plan, said Blokhuis.
“All we’re asking is that they be held to the same standards as other residential property owners,” he said.
The city’s zoning bylaw does not typically allow parking in the front yard of a multi-residential building.
A public meeting regarding the zoning application is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in council chambers. Blokhuis is one of several neighbourhood residents who plan to provide feedback at that meeting. He has also prepared a written document on behalf of himself and 14 of his neighbours commenting on Vesterra’s proposal. The key message: No parking lot, please.
The group has proposed five alternatives to the parking lot plan. At the top of the list, they suggest Vesterra forgo the two additional units it plans to build at the back of the property in order to leave sufficient space for parking.
“The reason they have no choice but to put the parking lot in the front yard is that they’re building something in the back,” said Blokhuis. “The decision to build something in the back is in itself a choice.”
The neighbours do not buy into the reasoning in the planning justification report, which says “the proposed parking cannot be accommodated in the side or rear yards as required due to the current layout of the building on the site.”
Besides removing the rear addition, the neighbourhood residents are also suggesting building underground parking below the addition, or leasing or purchasing additional parking from the former Delhi Street Recreation Centre at the back of the property.
“You can’t say ‘we have no choice’ where there are other reasonable options,” said Blokhuis.
The neighbours also object to the suggestion from the report that parking should be allowed in the front yard because it is already allowed for non-residential buildings on the street. “They want to be residential, but with commercial parking,” said Blokhuis. They also object to the report’s suggestion that the requested bylaw amendments “are minor and will not adversely affect the adjacent properties or surrounding area.”
The company that prepared the report for Vesterra did not consult residents of the street before making this claim, said Blokhuis.
“You can’t say there’s no effect on property owners without consulting with those property owners,” he said.
An arborist’s report, submitted with Vesterra’s application, recommends the removal of most of the trees from the front yard. This is also not a justification for allowing a parking lot there, said Blokhuis.
By Jessica Lovell