A Guelph businessman wants to build a 220-unit seniors residence on Stevenson Street.
But according to the city there seems to be a major regulatory hurdle that plan.
Probhash Mondal owns the vacant lot at 110 Stevenson St. S. and says he has the financing to build the estimated $22 million it would cost to build the residence, which would be a minimum six storeys high.
The property sits between the Guelph Sikh Society and the IMICO lands, just south of Elizabeth Street.
No official application has yet been made to the city although there have been some preliminary discussions with city planning staff, which is the usual course of action, and Mondal has reached out to some members of council.
“This is not something we’re doing to make money, believe me,” said Mondal. “We’re going to put up all the money and the money is already secured.”
Ideally, Mondal said, he would like to break ground in March.
“You think that’s possible or am I just dreaming?” Mondal said.
He said it is about building and creating something that the city, and The Ward, needs.
Mondal owns several medical imaging clinics in Guelph.
The main obstacle to his plan is lies in zoning and Official Plan designation.
The land would need to be redesignated and rezoned, a common step in new developments. In this case it’s more complicated.
In fact the city says the current review that might lead to the appropriate rezoning wouldn’t be complete for another three years.
According to an email exchange Mondal had with the city, the property is currently designated as ‘mixed business’ in the city’s Official Plan, which the city considers an employment designation.
“Your proposal for a seniors residence would be considered to be an employment conversion,” wrote senior city planner Lindsay Sulatycki.
“To ensure that adequate land is available to meet future employment needs, the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses may only be permitted through a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR),” said the email.
That review is underway but won’t be complete for three years. Mondal’s would have to meet a number of criteria under the current rules before it could be rezoned, the city said.
But Mondal’s architect, Guelph-based Bill Birdsell, say that definition within the Official Plan is “open to interpretation” and that their proposal would supply the kind of employment that the zoning is supposed to provide.
Birdsell and Mondal say that it seems strange that a strip plaza could be built there that might employ 15 people, but a seniors residence that would employ 50 people can’t.
Birdsell said the usual Official Plan amendment and rezoning are procedural matters that developments often have to work through.
“The killer that came out in our meeting with the city was this issue about ‘employment lands’ and the way it’s designated within a section of the Official Plan,” Birdsell said.
“They said we would be taking it (the land) out of employment and putting it into a different category and they’re not even going to touch that part of the Official Plan for at least three years. That’s a killer to the project,” Birdsell said.
“We’re still observing that they’re employment lands and we’re providing significant employment,” Mondal said.
Birdsell said that’s open to interpretation and hopes the city sees it the same way.
“Our argument is that we need the intent of employment land,” he said.
Mondal has a meeting planned for mid-November with the city’s economic development department.
For now he is trying to create a groundswell of support for the project, including talking with Ward 1 councillor Dan Gibson, who called it “an exciting prospective project” when asked for comment.
“I think we just have to have a gentle nudge with staff so they see how we are actually achieving the intent of what they want to achieve, then we move ahead with the appropriate wording,” Birdsell said.
He said it would be “premature” to bring it to council at this stage because no formal submission has been made to council.