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Fonthill neighbours protest proposed six-storey building at planning meeting

Increased traffic, nearby homes left in shadow among complaints

A controversial proposal to build a six-storey apartment complex at the corner of Welland Road and Pelham Street brought out several concerned neighbours to a Town Committee of the Whole public meeting under the Planning Act Monday evening, Jan. 16, and council members appeared to agree with at least some of their concerns.

The proposal would see the lot that currently houses the Concordia Lutheran Church severed in two, with the housing complex being constructed on the western portion. The church, which has already signed documents to sell the piece of land to a developer, would remain on the eastern half of the property.

An online petition against the development, started by residents on nearby Hunters Court and Woodside Square, had accrued 640 signatures as of Monday night. Some of them spoke at the virtual meeting.

“We’re not NIMBY,” said Brad Whitelaw, who raised multiple concerns via a slide presentation, including shadows cast by the proposed structure, water infrastructure capacity, and traffic.

“Welland Road is already very busy.”

Whitelaw added that he wanted the Town to maintain a two-storey height limit in the area.

Fellow neighbour Heather Carter called the proposed building a “six-storey monstrosity in our backyard,” while Monica Yang says she moved from Toronto to Fonthill for a small-town feel.

“This is not the town I’m looking for,” Yang said.

Given Ontario’s acute need for housing and associated pro-density policies in Queen’s Park, the neighbours may not have a prayer of stopping the church site development, but council members appeared to lend a sympathetic ear.

“The number of variances this building requires, in my opinion, is excessive,” said Councillor Shellee Niznik of Ward 3, where the land in question is located. “I don’t feel I can support this development as presented.”

Some of the concerns come from the planned loss of trees on the northern boundary of the property, backing onto residences on Woodside Square — hence removing a privacy barrier between those homes and the six-storey building. Developers say they plan on keeping the current trees on the west side of the land, backing onto Hunters Court.

Ward 1’s Kevin Ker said the developers should consult with a certified arborist to at least try and allay neighbour concerns. Ward 2’s John Wink, meanwhile, expressed concern about the loss of sunlight to properties on Hunters and Woodside.

Engineer William Heikoop from Upper Canada Consultants, speaking for the developer, said that the shadows cast by the building would be no worse than the ones cast by the 46-year-old Lookout Village condo development onto neighbouring Timmsdale Crescent and Brondi’s Lane.

The would-be developer, Stephen Kaiser, owner of Kaiser and Associates, said he understood neighbours’ worries, but that he has been hearing from detractors to development in Pelham since 1986.

“Change is never easy,” Kaiser said, pointing out that the Hunters Court townhome development itself once heard objections from nearby residents. “This is truly a watershed moment for housing in Ontario.”

Kaiser reiterated basic development principles that the area is prime for such a development given it is at the intersection of arterial and collector roads.

Heikoop also contradicted Whitelaw’s assertion that Welland Road is too busy, saying that his traffic study data indicated the roadway currently has surplus capacity.

Also speaking in favour of the developer was Concordia Lutheran Church council member David Braun.

“We are in support of the vision [of the development],” Braun said, adding that the church is working with the developers in regard to the long-term viability of the place of worship. As part of proposed site plan changes, the church’s parking lot would move to the southeast corner of the property.

Council members voted unanimously to receive the information at the meeting. While no decision on the development is imminent, given past experience, shooting down the plan outright would likely cost the Town on the order of $50,000 to $80,000 in a losing battle at the Ontario Land Tribunal.

WATCH: Monday's planning meeting on YouTube


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John Chick

About the Author: John Chick

John Chick has worked in and out of media for some 20 years, including stints with The Score, CBC, and the Toronto Sun. He covers Pelham Town Council and occasional other items for PelhamToday, and splits his time between Fonthill and Toronto
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