Developers should just follow the rules, say residents of the Niagara-on-the-Lake dock area.
A half-dozen came out on Tuesday to share their views on a condominium proposal slated to replace the old King George III Inn at the corner of Melville and Lockhart streets.
While residents seemed mostly OK with the project at the open house on May 17, they were more critical at the public meeting on June 13.
Some said it was, at least, an improvement on developer Blythwood Homes’ first proposal, which the architects described as “dark” and “bulky” at the open house in May.
Coun. Gary Burroughs said the new proposal “looks excellent,” and resident Barbara Worthy described it as “easy on the eye.”
Some residents said it wasn’t quite there yet, though.
Worthy was happy to see architect Wayne Murray on the project, whose design of the nearby Harbour House Hotel “breathed with the neighbourhood,” she said.
She could not say the same of this condo proposal: “The current design of 61 Melville does not breathe yet,” she said.
Dock area resident Paul Shepherd was not satisfied with the height or bulk of the building. It is set at 12 metres and covers 67 per cent of the lot, above the town’s mandated 50 per cent lot coverage.
He and other residents pointed out that the average height of the surrounding houses is especially low.
Shepherd, Worthy and fellow resident Jim Reynolds took issue with the property’s short setbacks from the surrounding roads.
“Simply, it is too big and it is too close,” Shepherd said.
Reynolds pointed out the proposed building was only one and 1.5 metres back from Lockhart and Delater streets, respectively.
The town’s bylaws require a minimum setback of 7.5 metres for most properties.
The developer has also planned for a shorter setback from Melville Street at 2.2 metres, again short of the town’s 7.5 metre requirement.
The developer states in its report that the shorter setback is consistent with the design of the adjacent condominium on the opposite side of Lockhart Street.
“Why are they allowed a setback of one metre on Delater Street when the rule is 7.5 metres? How does a development get this far when they are breaking the rules?” asked Worthy.
She acknowledged it would cost the developer more to go back and revise the plan now, but pointed out the cost could have been avoided had they just followed the rules.
Reynolds also pointed out that the proposal granted two parking spaces per unit and worried this would facilitate the use of each unit as a short-term rental.
The town’s short-term rental bylaw, however, states new properties need to be used by long-term occupants for at least four years before they can be legally used as short-term rentals.
“These are luxury units and quite often the owners will have two cars,” architect Murray said.
Worthy was the first to bring up the issue of flooding in the dock area.
“2017 taught us all so many lessons in flood planning,” Worthy said, referring to a record-high flood in the neighbourhood, caused by the extreme weather and rising water levels from Lake Ontario.
“If everyone flushes the loo at the same time, are we going to be able to handle that?” she asked.
Worthy asked the town to provide a report showing if the infrastructure in the neighbourhood is ready for the increased density.