City council was repeatedly urged to reject a proposal to build five townhouse units on a single Bristol Street lot, with concerns raised about the plan itself and the developer’s decision to pre-emptively, but legally, remove 27 mature trees from the site.
“I think you got a problem with this one,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said during a Monday evening public meeting, speaking to the developer behind the project at 151 Bristol St. “I think you kind of know it too.”
The proposal, if ultimately approved, will see a five-unit block of townhouses built facing Emslie Street. The lot is about 44.1 metres deep and runs through to Bristol. Each unit is to have its own driveway and garage.
A one-storey home and detached garage currently on the property are set for demolition.
The developer, Madalikat Developments Ltd., wants the property rezoned from “residential single detached” to “residential on-street townhouse,” with no site-specific requests such as reduced setbacks from neighbouring properties.
Monday’s public meeting was held to gather feedback on the proposal. Council made no formal decision regarding the rezoning request. That will come during a future meeting.
Concerns raised by more than a dozen delegates who oppose the plan include: increased traffic and the likelihood of on-street parking needs from residents – especially in light of the recent change to no parking along Emslie Street – density on the lot, soil contamination and potential impacts on water, drainage, covering of a quarry wall face, compatibility with surrounding properties, privacy and the orientation of the buildings.
“It’s being built that way not because it makes sense but because there’s money to be made,” said Glen Prince, whose sister owns one of the nearby properties, referring to the plan to build facing Emslie rather than Bristol. “I see no benefit to the community.”
Jeff Buisman of Van Harten Surveying, speaking on behalf of the developer, said the townhouses are proposed to face Emslie because the Bristol frontage is in the floodplain and building there is limited.
However, as several delegates and councillors pointed out, building has been done in the floodplain nearby. It just takes a little more “creativity,” said Coun. Cathy Downer.
Perhaps the biggest bone of contention is the developer’s decision to remove 27 mature trees from the site shortly before applying for rezoning, which requires a tree preservation plan and the planting of new trees to replace any taken down due to the development.
Krista Walkey, the city’s general manager of planning and building services, confirmed the trees were taken down, but said because the lot is less than 0.5-acres in size there is no bylaw preventing it.
Several delegates suggested the early removal had led to distrust of the developer. Representing the developer, planning consultant Jim Cox said he knew nothing about the removal.
“I’m just disappointed in that type of behaviour,” added Downer, who asked city staff to review the bylaw to ensure there was no violation.
A new, more stringent bylaw is in the works, Walkey noted.
Coun. Leanne Caron suggested the development is potentially precedence-setting if approved as-is. She’s particularly concerned about the requested density on a mid-block site and worries that this could open the door to other similar applications for infill projects in established neighbourhoods.