A long list of neighbours on Johnson Street are concerned about the precedent that could be set in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic district if the town is approves a request for rezoning of 129 Johnson St.
The proposal to rezone the property, which would allow a condominium unit above the garage of the existing single-detached heritage home (circa 1890), drew vocal residents to a virtual public meeting Monday.
Residents echoed each other’s concerns about future plans for the lot, the potential of the dwelling being used as a short-term rental and what they called a dangerous precedent for the historic district if the town were to allow the rezoning.
They said the zoning would mean that anyone else could apply for the same changes and felt strongly that it would not be good for the future of the Old Town.
Many of the neighbours said if the town is to allow the site-specific amendment, that they too would apply for the same rezoning out of principle.
A report prepared by Denise Horne of the town’s community and development department said the proposal fits with the province’s policy statement, as well as the official plans of both the town and the Region of Niagara.
The property is on a “settlement area,” where growth and development are to be directed, said Horne.
“The policy statement says that healthy, liveable and safe communities are sustained by accommodating an affordable mix of residential types,” she told council, noting the location is in an area where intensification is encouraged.
“The official plan does have policies within the growth management section that do encourage second dwelling units within existing single-detached dwellings,” she said.
Horne said staff has not taken an official position on the development, noting further resident consultation is needed. However, she said it’s “difficult to see that there would be any anticipated negative impacts within the heritage conservation district or to the subject property.”
She said the town has no objections to the rezoning, but that staff have received 13 letters from 11 residents about the proposal.
The property currently has a short-term rental licence.
The application has not gone to the municipal heritage committee because the zoning is for land use only, and the existing face of the property would not change, she added.
Neighbours Brodie and Maria Townley were among the speakers opposed to the development.
Brodie Townley said he understands the province is looking for intensification, but “within that policy, the town council has the ability to determine where that intensification takes place.”
“Surely it’s not the town’s desire to have the heritage district, probably one of the most important heritage districts in Canada, to be allowed for intensification purposes,” he said.
He said he doesn’t think NOTL has any intensification issues.
“We’re well ahead of provincial numbers, and particularly with the expansion of the Glendale area that’s going on, I don’t foresee us having an intensification issue for a long time to come.”
Townley urged councillors to protect the Old Town, noting many of them were voted in to do just that.
“Many of you were elected in the last election primarily because the majority of the last council did not take this seriously and was not doing a great job.”
“This is going to open up a can of worms, that both the other developers and residents will feast on. And once it starts, you will not be able to stop it.”