The City of Guelph will have an opportunity to purchase up to two acres to put toward affordable housing if a proposed 772 unit development on Silvercreek Parkway is approved.
City council got its first look at the new application during its planning meeting on Monday evening. The proposal would see a range of housing options — from town homes to condominiums and six storey apartment buildings — on the former Lafarge lands in the west end of the city.
The owners are identified in the report as Silvercreek Guelph Developments Ltd. and 2089248 Ontario Inc.
The 16.52 hectare site is currently vacant, with grading work and tree removal having been done in recent years. It’s borders are defined by the Hanlon Expressway to the west, Metrolinx railway to the north, Howitt Creek to the east and the CNR secondary railway the south.
On the other side of Howitt Creek is land that the developer has already been dedicated to the city as parkland, which is popular with people walking their dogs.
In a proposal shown to council on Monday, a neighbourhood park would extend on the west side of Howitt Creek all the way to an extension of Silvercreek parkway, flanked to the north and south by townhouses.
Across the street on the other side of Silvercreek would be a proposed urban square, centred around a mature oak tree that was untouched when tree removal efforts were completed in 2017. The urban square would be the focal point of the west end of the development, which would include six storey mixed-use, six-storey apartment buildings and town homes.
In total, the proposal will add 301 apartment units, 200 townhouse units, 271 mixed-use units and 6,500 square metres of commercial space.
While speaking as a delegation on behalf of the owners, Astrid Clos of Astrid J. Clos Planning Consultants said although there is not currently a plan for affordable housing as part of the project, the city does have first right of refusal to purchase two acres of the development to dedicate to that goal.
That stemmed from the minutes of settlement made in 2009 after a previous application for the site made its way to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Ward 2 councillor James Gordon said he was caught by surprise about council hearing about that settlement from someone speaking on behalf of the developer, not from city staff.
“It’s not in the report, but I am pleased to see it,” said Gordon.
Clos noted the purchase of the land would be at market price, with terms of the deal to be agreed upon with the land owner.
Asked if the development would be net zero, Clos said it would not be, but noted there are features of the development which would work partway toward that goal, including solar panels on the roofs of the six storey buildings and, if agreed upon by Alectra, a possibility for solar panels on the streetlights and bus shelters.
Also speaking as a delegation was David McAuley, who said there was a lot of commendable things about the proposed development, but also some missed opportunities — including making the development net zero, more walkable and
"I think there are lots of opportunities to introduce things like co-housing, live/work spaces that are more on a smaller basis for professionals or people who want to live closer to home, rather than commuting,” said McAuley.
There could also be opportunities identified on site for affordable housing for seniors and people who are experiencing homelessness, but he would like to see that housing spread throughout the development.
"I don't want to see two acres and all of the affordable housing in one location,” he said.
The site has tremendous potential to be an urban village, said McAuley.
In his comments, Gordon said he would like to see affordable housing addressed by the developer when the plan comes back to council.
"I would love to see on both ends — I would love to see a component within the existing proposal and if this two acres happens, that is a bonus," he said.
Mayor Cam Guthrie wondered aloud if there was another option other than the city purchasing two acres from the owners to put toward affordable housing concerns.
If the city were to purchase the two acres, said Guthrie, it would then have to turn to the County of Wellington for approval, because the county is in control of actually building affordable housing in the area. Guthrie was concerned that move could stall the building of that housing.
“Most of the time, developers need a financial incentive to have units become affordable,” said Guthrie. “Instead of land, we actually work with the developers that actually are going to be building the buildings anyways.”
Council accepted the staff report as information, it will come back to Guelph City Council for final approval at a later date.