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Changing landscape

How can a development originally proposed in 2005 be coming to city council on Feb. 4, 2013, as a “fresh application” for rezoning and Official Plan changes? That’s the situation with Silvercreek Guelph Developments Ltd.’s new application for changes to its plans for retail development on the former Lafarge quarry site. But there are reasons for this state of affairs.
The quarry land had sat empty for many years before Silvercreek made a proposal in 2005 for what amounted to a big, single-use retail development on the awkwardly situated site. The application, which met strong resistance from the neighbourhood, was a hot potato at city hall. So much so that council didn’t include the site  in a new commercial policy that established four multi-use commercial “nodes” on the southern, northern, western and eastern outskirts of Guelph. Finally, the developer took the city to the Ontario Municipal Board, and a settlement mediated by the OMB emerged four years ago. It reduced the retail space, which originally was to include two large big-box stores, and added important new elements to what’s now to be a multi-use development.
Silvercreek Guelph Developments Ltd. and Armel Corp., which owns a lot of land where the west end “node” is being developed in the area of a big Zehrs, have fought for years over the commercial plans for their west end sites. Their wrangling, including at the OMB, is part of why the development on the former Lafarge site has been slow to materialize. It has also taken a long time for the city to get ready to build a railway underpass and link up two sections of Silvercreek Parkway so the site can be developed.
Although the developer’s new application is different enough from the mediated settlement of four years ago that city planning staff are treating it as a “fresh” application, the developer isn’t seeking permission for more retail space than the previously agreed total of 245,000 square feet. And the non-retail aspects of the proposed development aren’t affected by the new application, the city says.
With Costco having opted for Armel’s site instead of the Silvercreek site, you have to wonder what retail use with drawing power will replace it. Another supermarket in an area that has a few of them already? You have to wonder. But it will be interesting to watch development unfold in a big, centrally located part of the city that’s been used for dog walking more than anything else in recent years.

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