A group of Elora residents concerned about Pearle Hospitality’s plans for a six-building development in the town’s historic core have formed a new advocacy group to oppose what they see as threats to Elora’s historic character and heritage.
The Friends of the Elora Heritage Area plan to distribute lawn signs that call on the township to "Protect our Elora Heritage Area." A public meeting is also planned for this fall.
Member Bob Jackson says a June public township meeting to discuss a zoning amendment request by Pearle triggered the formation of the group.
“If inappropriate precedents are set there, they have a spillover knock-on effect for the rest of the village,” Jackson said, explaining the height of the buildings Pearle is ultimately allowed to build at the Elora South site could set a standard for future developments. Parking requirements and public access are also concerns.
While Pearle recently withdrew the zoning amendment application, Jackson says questions raised by residents at the June meeting still haven’t been answered and the group is opposed to council voting on a tax break for the development on Monday.
“We haven’t finished addressing what they’re asking for and what we’re opposed to,” fellow group member, Vince Agostino said. “How can they go ahead and move to the next thing on the agenda before we have this one completed.”
Agostino says the group is not against development in historic Elora neighbourhoods, but there has to be “balance.”
“Where you can accommodate for growth and development, and at the same time protect what’s important and valuable to the village,” Agostino continued.
If developers are allowed to go unchecked, “it won’t be Ontario’s most beautiful village and the tourists will not come here,” Agostino said.
“This will be a community area that gets privatized and is no longer accessible,” Jackson said.
In an emailed statement Pearle Hospitality said, "Pearle Hospitality and the Elora Mill welcome and value input from the community. We have withdrawn the height zoning amendment for our next phase and our confident it will integrate into Elora’s unique and historical architecture. Our first project, the restoration of the The Mill itself reflects and integrates the history of Elora as will our next phase of development."