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Sunday, July 14, 2024
Councillors give White Oaks highrise tower project a second chance
An aerial rendering of the proposed development as seen from the north side near the QEW. SOURCED

It’s better for the town to move ahead with plans for highrises in Glendale, with alterations, rather than dismissing the project altogether, says Coun. Gary Burroughs.

He was one of four councillors to change their vote on the four-building White Oaks development at last week’s council meeting after a plea from LandX Developments president Tim Collins.

It was approved 8-1, with all councillors ended up voting in favour of the project, except Coun. Sandra O’Connor.

O’Connor said she does not feel comfortable moving forward with the altered plan.

She attempted to defer the amendment until council saw the updated Glendale secondary plan but her motion had no seconder.

“We’re making a very important decision and we haven’t even seen that plan,” she said.

The four towers will be 17, 18, 21 and 25 storeys.

Burroughs, who voted against proposed zoning bylaw amendments during a committee of the whole meeting on June 11, said he supported the project after his motion to meet with Transport Canada was also approved at the meeting.

Council agreed to have “the mayor, a representative from the airport, one councillor and appropriate staff meet with Transport Canada and settle the height issue once and for all,” Burroughs told The Lake Report. 

Part of Glendale falls under federal airport zoning regulations because the neighbourhood is not far from the Niagara District Airport and building heights within that zone are restricted to seven storeys.

“So, that’s why my vote changed,” Burroughs said.

He added that once the height is ultimately decided, he will be more comfortable to move forward.

“For the residents as well as the developer, they need to know,” he said. 

Couns. Nick Ruller and Wendy Cheropita also changed their minds.

During last week’s meeting, Ruller asked whether the developer could change the locations of the buildings, putting the tallest tower farthest away from other residences. 

In an interview, he said when the report originally came before council, he “didn’t have the clarity to make an informed decision.”

After getting additional information about all of the amenities that will be included in the development and how they address the needs of the community, he changed his opinion, he said.

“It seemed like a more suitable proposal after the additional information was provided,” Ruller said.

Tim Collins, LandX’s president, said that the amenities White Oaks already has, including a daycare and nursery, cafe and place to get your hair cut, will be extended and built upon with the development.

Ruller said that along with these features and a revised order of the buildings, residents would appreciate an opportunity to revisit the plan.

He added that he is not interested in trying to turn committee meetings into a “workshop” but rather wants to find a solution that could meet both the developer’s and the residents’ needs. 

Glendale resident Steve Hardaker said that he is disappointed with council’s decision.

“I’m quite bitter actually. We worked hard, we amassed 644 signatures on the petition (against it) and that wasn’t Niagara-on-the-Lake-wide, that was in Glendale and Niagara on the Green,” he said.

“That’s a significant amount of people who were against this development to be ignored by those councillors,” Hardaker continued.

Cheropita shared Ruller’s view, saying new information about the development changed her mind. 

“We want to get cars off the main roads so that communities can be walkable, usable and complete communities,” she said in an interview.

“What they are planning is exactly that, so that residents can work, play and live in the same area.”

When the developers came back to council saying that it was impossible to reduce heights, she still thought the development was ultimately worth it, she said.

“To me it was either, do we turn it down or do we allow it to happen and be able to work with the developer to make sure they do it in the best possible way, to be integrated into the community,” she said. 

Cheropita added that when voting, councillors agreed to have developers reassess where the tallest buildings would be placed.

“They’re willing to work with us on that,” she said. 

Taking in all of those facts, Cheropita said she felt more comfortable voting in favour of the project.

Regarding the possibility or rearranging the buildings by height, Hardaker said it is a “minor consideration” and there will nonetheless be 17, 18, 21 and 25-storey buildings looking over the Niagara on the Green neighbourhood.

Glendale has become the “official dumping ground for unwanted development in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” he said.

The Glendale secondary plan — a strategy for current and future development in the community — identifies the neighbourhood as a “strategic growth area,” where multiple types of housing will be available.

“We do welcome (development) here because that will bring amenities, but not 25 storeys or 21 storeys or 18 storeys or 17 storeys. That’s outrageous,” Hardaker said.

“For people that are north of White Oaks, that will block their view of the escarpment.”

He doesn’t think this kind of development would be accepted in Old Town, for example.

“Put a 25-storey building in Old Town and see what happens. They had a hard enough time getting approval for a four-storey building,” Hardaker said.


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