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Residents vowing to fight rezoning

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Some residents in the Emo Road area were disappointed by town council’s decision to approve a zoning bylaw amendment in their neighbourhood Monday night—and plan to take the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Council voted in favour of rezoning property at 1345 Emo Rd. from institutional to multi-residential (Residential Type Four, or R4) so local resident Dave Petsnick could convert the former United Pentecostal Church into a three-unit apartment complex, as well as permit the construction of an additional complex at some point down the road.

It also included a reduction in the frontage and side yard requirements to meet the zoning regulations for an R4 zone.

The group of residents were disappointed they didn’t get a chance to speak out against the rezoning Monday night, with one resident saying he felt at least one councillor should have pulled the item from the agenda until their concerns were addressed.

Mayor Roy Avis told the residents they still can oppose the change by filing for an appeal hearing with the OMB.

“We’re definitely filing an appeal. We’re going to fight this,” one resident vowed late yesterday, citing one of the major issues is the residents feel “shortchanged” in being able to provide input on the rezoning.

He said many feel the town did not give enough notice regarding the initial public meeting regarding the proposed rezoning amendment on Oct. 14. The notice of the meeting was advertised in the Friday, Sept. 19 edition of the Daily Bulletin and not many of the affected residents saw it.

At the public meeting on Oct. 14, a couple of Emo Road residents did appear and gave council a petition with signatures of area and non-area residents opposed to the rezoning.

They also spoke against the rezoning, voicing concerns about insufficient notice of the rezoning meeting, increases to traffic in their neighbourhood, decreased enjoyment of the wildlife that inhabits their backyards, and the possibility of decreased property values and higher crime rates if subsidized housing was allowed to be built there.

Also at that Oct. 14 meeting, Petsnick spoke in favour of the rezoning, clarifying he wanted to renovate the church into three apartments and that they wouldn’t be subsidized housing.

Rather, he wanted to market them either to seniors or professionals who have a regular turnover in their jobs (such as police officers who are only here for a couple of years).

Petsnick also said he planned to build four more units in a second building to be constructed in the future.

Public input from that meeting then was forwarded to the Committee of Adjustment, which, acting in their advisory role, met Oct. 20 to make a recommendation regarding the rezoning.

According to a report from municipal planner Faye Flatt, approved by council Monday, the committee did not take issue with increased traffic or decreased wildlife, but did feel there were too many variances necessary to the zoning standards for the property to comply with R4 zone regulations, and that the configuration of the building and property was not appropriate for multi-residential.

While the committee was not opposed to rezoning the property to a “residential” designation, it preferred it be given to a single family residence rather than a multi-residential dwelling, especially since the configuration of the units inside the converted building and the height of the future building are unknown.

In her report, Flatt noted:

•The proposed development would not result in extensions of major infrastructure nor adverse effects to the existing sanitary sewers or municipal water service, and sufficient fire protection and utilities are available to the property. At the time the second structure is constructed, upgrades to the existing service infrastructure will be required (the cost of those upgrades will be responsibility of the applicant);

•The proposal meets with the intent and is consistent with the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement and its direction for intensification and redevelopment as it pertains to promoting a mix of uses and densities that allow for the efficient use of land and existing infrastructure;

•A shortage of residential properties has been identified in Fort Frances, and the development of seven housing units has the potential to benefit the situations, as it may cause smaller families and seniors to move into the new units and larger families in their recently-vacated homes;

•There’s no evidence provided to substantiate claims there would be a significant traffic increase as a result of the proposed units;

•There’s no evidence provided to support the perception that the development would adversely impact existing wildlife, and the subject land is not located in the vicinity of any significant natural and scientific area of interest, or natural heritage areas (additional research was conducted with the local MNR); and

•There is no evidence so support the claim property values will decrease as a result of this development. In fact, a review of assessed value of single detached dwellings adjacent to recent multi-residential complexes, such as the Riverwalk Condominium and “McKinnon 4-plex,” indicates the assessed value increased about three percent following the construction and occupying of the structures.

Flatt recommended in her report that the rezoning be approved with the following site-specific provisions:

•A maximum of seven units is permitted;

•The frontage required is reduced to 18.28 metres;

•The required interior side yard on the east side is reduced to 3.3 metres as it pertains to the existing building only;

•The required planting strip is permitted to form part of the required side yard; and

•The maximum height of the buildings is reduced to 12 metres.

The property, located on the southwest corner of Emo Road and Pit Road #1, originally was zoned Residential Type Two (R2).

The zoning bylaw at the time permitted institutional uses in any residential zones and on Sept. 14, 1978 a building permit was issued to construct a church there.

Since then, it had been used as a place of worship.

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