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Residents to appeal Safeway expansion

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Church Street residents say they will band together to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board town council’s decision Monday night to approve Safeway’s plans for expansion here.

But that move could mean money out of their own pockets as each appeal carries a $125 price tag.

"And sometimes, depending on the nature of the appeal, the OMB will award costs," Planning and Development manager Ted Berry noted.

At its regular meeting Monday, council unanimously approved bylaws to approve a site plan agreement as a condition for development, and amend both the zoning bylaw and official plan to zone the area "commercial."

That despite vocal opposition beforehand from several people living in the area.

"I just feel that my concerns were not even addressed," charged Kerry Grinsell. "I am totally opposed to this expansion."

The father of three small children, Grinsell questioned what impact the expansion would have on his future life on the street--and what it would do to property values in the area.

"I object to the entranceway being on Church Street," echoed Jim Chabot. "I don’t think it’s fair.

"We’re going to do something. We have to do something," he warned.

Long-time resident Joe Gervais said he didn’t object to Safeway expanding but added he didn’t like what was happening with the street.

Marion Gratton, who has lived on Church Street for 51 years, feared an entrance on her street would interfere with her ability to get in and out of her driveway.

"I can’t afford not to have a car," she told councillors. "[And] if it’s going to cause hardship to get out of my driveway, I’m going to complain."

Meanwhile, Alice Widurski asked why the town didn’t have a bylaw to protect the integrity of residential areas, noting that would prevent the "rigmarole" before it started.

John Graham, Safeway’s public affairs manager who attended Monday night’s meeting, said he wasn’t surprised by the opposition.

"I’m not sure how we can better address their concerns," he admitted, noting Safeway would continue trying to be a "good neighbour."

One concession that came out of Monday’s meeting was to make a right in/right out entrance on Church Street (traffic could only make a right turn in or a right turn coming out).

Safeway real estate manager Brian Kozak also felt restricting Church Street parking to residents only might alleviate some concerns.

With council approving the bylaws, the next step is to send the official plan amendment to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval.

Once approved, residents have 20 days to appeal the decision. They also can appeal the the zoning bylaw amendment with the town.

"If the [official plan] isn’t approved, then the zoning bylaw approval is null and void," Berry noted.

Meanwhile, Graham stressed Safeway would continue to talk to neighbourhood residents to try and address their concerns. But he added Safeway has been at that location since 1977 and didn’t want to move.

"The location is excellent," agreed Berry, adding it was within walking distance for a lot of seniors.

And with the local paper mill assembling land to act as a buffer, Berry noted available commercial land was shrinking in the downtown area.

"You’re going to see a lot more of this," he warned.

But when--or if--Safeway will be allowed to proceed with its expansion now depends on the ministry, and what the OMB does with any appeals.

And until then, Safeway can’t move ahead with its plans.

"We’re anxious to begin our development," Graham noted. "We’ll continue on. We believe we’ve presented a good plan."

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