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Could hit seven years before ruling on Guelph apartment proposal is delivered

'We need to come to a conclusion,' says mayor on the fact it could be 2023 before final decision is made on 75 Dublin St.

By the time the appeal hearing regarding a proposed new apartment on the edge of downtown begins, about seven years will have passed since the project was first submitted to the city.

No matter what the eventual outcome of those appeals is, Mayor Cam Guthrie and Ward 3 councillor Phil Allt agree that sort of timeline is a problem.

“When we are in a housing crisis, this is one of the things that is contributing to the housing crisis,” Guthrie said of lengthy process timelines.  

“The province, under Planning Act regulations, they dictate to cities the turnaround time required for processing of applications and other planning matters, yet the province with the OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal) appeals process, they are not held to any of those same standards.”

In a decision handed down by the OLT on Wednesday, appeals regarding the proposal for a 35-unit four-storey apartment building at 75 Dublin St. N. – on the old church tennis courts at the corner of Dublin and Cork streets – will begin being heard on April 3 of 2023. Ten days have been put aside for the hearing.

The initial proposal called for a 42-unit, five-storey building. It was filed in 2016.

“Finally there’s a date where this can get resolved because this is a longtime coming,” commented Guthrie. “We need that to come to a conclusion.”

“Seven years is inappropriate in so many ways,” added Allt, explaining such delays leaves area residents in a “state of anxiety” over the project’s future, along with lingering concerns about potential impacts and, if ultimately approved, results in higher costs for the developer due to both current supply and labour issues as well as general inflation. “Seven years, I don’t think is fair.”

The proponent, Rykur Holdings, filed an appeal with the then-Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2018 regarding council’s refusal of approval. 

Efforts to reach Rykur representatives for comments weren’t immediately successful.

A proposed settlement between the city and Rykur was reached last year that would have seen the project move ahead with four storeys, but both the Upper Grand District School Board and Guelph Old City Residents Association objected to that agreement, resulting in the appeals moving forward. Both organizations are parties to the OLT appeals.

Among the concerns being raised are the impact on privacy for the neighbouring Central Public School, shadow issues, conflict between school parents and building residents and ramifications for current and/or future heritage protections for the area known as Catholic Hill.

Current zoning allows for a four-storey building. It's that zoning, approved in 2016, that's now the subject of the appeal, stated Stacey Laughlin, the city's senior policy planner, in an email.

While the proposed new units at 75 Dublin St. N. would only be a drop in the bucket in terms of meeting the city’s housing needs, these sorts of lengthy delays and processes are a “contributing” factor to the current housing crisis and skyrocketing housing prices, Guthrie said.

Part of that, he explained, is that new information is allowed to be presented during OLT appeals, forcing municipalities to review, research and respond to those details.

“Many, many cities, many cities, are complaining that they then have to pull their own planning staff resources away from other development projects and applications that are in the queue,” Guthrie said.

While delays can be caused by any of the involved parties, Guthrie and Allt were quick to point to the provincial government’s role. Since the appeal was first filed, the deciding body has been changed from the OMB to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to the OLT.

“(Premier) Doug Ford is talking about getting rid of the red tape. Well this is a provincial responsibility and this is clearly provincial red tape,” the councillor said. “The fact that it’s taken this long is a problem.”

At the time it was first proposed, the 75 Dublin St. N. was to include 20 affordable units geared toward seniors, but that’s no longer part of the plan. If it were, it’s likely any funding programs that existed at the time are no longer in place, Allt noted.



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