Moments before council unanimously approved zoning amendments allowing for a downsized temporary supportive housing project at 65 Delhi St., Mayor Cam Guthrie pleaded with neighbours not to file an appeal.
“Supportive housing … is so badly needed in our community,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. “I respectfully request that, if this passes here tonight, instead you work with the county and we look forward to helping 28 individuals that desperately need a place to call home.”
The “threat” of appeal, as Guthrie put it, was made both through a letter from a lawyer he received on Friday and referenced by delegates on Monday who asked council to delay making a decision because they feel their concerns have not been adequately addressed and they’d like time to more thoroughly discuss options for change with Wellington County officials.
The project, brought forward by the county after the city-owned building was put up for sale late last year, was initially proposed to see the historic building converted into a supportive housing project with 36 bedrooms, common spaces, shared kitchens and washrooms as well as office space for support services.
During Monday’s meeting, council learned the project has been scaled back to 28 bedrooms, with the additional space to be attributed to shared areas. A request for zoning that would allow the building to be used as an emergency shelter or for a child care centre was previously removed from the plan.
“This is moving in the right direction,” Stephen Kilburn of the recently formed Delhi Eramosa Neighbourhood Advocates group said of the changes, adding, “This proposal has weaknesses that I don’t believe an appeal tribunal would support.”
The group of neighbours have been calling for the number of residents at 65 Delhi St. to be dropped to 16, which they suggest is the currently permitted density – something city staff contend isn’t the case.
Even if it proceeded with 36 bedrooms, Katie Nasswetter, the city’s senior development planner, argued the housing project would meet existing city and provincial legislation because bedrooms and self-contained units are not the same thing.
“There isn’t a massive disagreement with the need for this,” said Robert Eilers from Vesterra Group of Companies, which owns the commercial building at 55 Delhi St. “We just want to be heard.”
Coun. James Gordon told Eilers changes already made to the plan prove county officials are listening to neighbourhood concerns and pointed to an offer made earlier in the meeting to continue working with area residents as the project moves through the detailed design phase and into fruition.In a news release announcing the project earlier this year, county officials noted they would only buy the property if zoning amendments needed for the project were approved. The plan is to relocate the temporary housing initiative currently at Loyola House at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre on Hwy. 6 to 65 Delhi St.