To say residents of the Niagara on the Green neighbourhood were surprised when they learned that White Oaks Resort and Spa is about to launch a massive residential development on its property would be an understatement.
There was little fanfare and only a small yellow public notice sign outside on the lawn to inform residents about the plan.
A virtual open house was held Sept. 19, but few people knew about it.
An in-person/virtual public meeting is planned for Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. in the town’s council chambers. Attendees need to register by Oct. 2.
White Oaks is preparing to build four highrise, high-density residential towers on land at the corner of Glendale Avenue and Taylor Road beside the existing hotel and resort.
The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake posted a “Notice of Complete Application,” plus information about an open house and public meeting on its website after receiving applications for official plan and zoning bylaw amendments for the property.
The plans propose 17- and 21-storey apartment buildings with 390 residential units and 18- and 25-storey mixed-use buildings containing 420 residential units and 1,515 square metres of ground floor commercial and retail space.
However, town plans for the Glendale community call for maximum heights of about seven storeys due to the area’s proximity to Niagara District Airport flight paths. Building heights near White Oaks could be lower than that.
The proposal also includes 1,016 parking spaces in a parking garage and underground structure.
This correspondent only learned about the applications when he stumbled upon the notice on the town’s website while researching another issue.
When the news was shared among Niagara on the Green residents via their private Facebook group, the reaction was complete surprise, although this plan has been in the works for a number of years.
Geoffrey Anderson, who moved to the neighbourhood four years ago, wrote in a message that “this project at White Oaks in the long term is going to be a good thing for this small community here in Glendale.”
“We cannot stay isolated from all types of grocery stores and all the other amenities that we need on a daily basis,” he said.
“Right now we have to travel too far to get our daily essentials. This is a start, along with the other planning they’re doing between the mall and our neighbourhood in Glendale,” Anderson said.
“Eventually this is all going to get built up and as long as the designers and planners are doing the right job, we will end up with a lovely community here.”
Jarrett L’ortye, a seven-year resident of Niagara on the Green, saw it differently.
“I moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake to get away from highrise buildings and dense population areas. It might just be me, but I hope this doesn’t happen.”
L’ortye added, “I love coming over the Garden City Skyway and seeing little that reminds me of a growing metropolis.”
“There is a peace about this town” and he’d hate to see it spoiled “by towering concrete structures and standardized heavy traffic.
Deepak Singh, who moved to the neighbourhood just over a year ago, was both positive and cautious.
“Exciting times lie ahead as the new residential and commercial towers grace our beautiful neighbourhood, promising economic growth, and bringing a plethora of amenities.”
But Singh also suggested, “It poses the risk of altering the serene charm and potentially straining local resources.”
“Residents are optimistic but cautious, hoping the development will harmonize with, rather than overshadow, the unique spirit of our small town.”
In the first few days after the original announcement of the development was posted to the neighbourhood Facebook group, it had garnered almost 60 comments, indicating a high level of interest in the future of the project.
Steve Hardaker has lived in Glendale for more than 13 years and is active in many community organizations.