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Sunday, September 24, 2023
Three-storey apartment proposed on edge of Old Town
From left, Harold Asikyan, Beverley Asikyan, Margaret Tarnowski, Edson Tirelli, Art Droulis, Sheila Cameron, Patrick Gedge, David Rodgers, Donna Rodgers and Marjorie Gedge. EVAN LOREE

 Residents on King Street may be getting some new neighbours, but many believed they’d be getting quite a few less.

Homeowners have a few concerns about a new three-storey apartment Butler’s Gardens Development Inc. is proposing to build on the edge of Old Town, at the southwest end of King Street.

Several took to the Facebook page NOTL 4U to share their views on July 15.

Meritage Lane resident Patrick Gedge said he was “shocked” when he first learned of the proposal last week.

“It was the developer who told us directly, in person, that it would be single-detached housing going onto that land,” Gedge told The Lake Report in an interview.

Instead of being single-detached houses, the proposed building will have 17 two-bedroom units and 18 parking spaces.

“Where are people going to park?” asked Gedge.

He said if the residents of the proposed apartment have visitors, there won’t be much parking available to them, and many will have to park down the street.

To build the project, developer Josh Bice first needs the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake to rezone the land and amend its official plan to accommodate denser housing in that neighbourhood.

“The proposed apartment building would increase housing choice in a community where single-detached housing types and other ground-oriented developments heavily prevail,” said a report from NPG Planning Solutions, which was hired by the developer to write the report.

The proposed structure would be just under 12 metres tall, which is higher than what the current zoning permits, and is slightly shorter than the 12 metres permitted by the town’s official plan.

Gedge points out that while the 11.82-metre building does not seem like a significant increase, it is 20 per cent taller than its neighbouring buildings.

“Our bungalow is going to be dwarfed by this building,” he said.

Gedge’s property backs onto the currently vacant lot.

If the apartment goes up, he said he will be almost face-to-face with an exterior wall.

The planner’s report describes the proposed apartment as an infill development designed to help the town provide a “range and mix of housing densities.”

This would help the town meet its provincially mandated density targets, the report said.

Residents are not satisfied with the report’s justification, though.

Like Gedge, some other residents were under the impression single-family homes were going to be built there.

And King Street resident Sheila Cameron said her parents severed and sold a portion of their home to Bice because they thought it would be used for single-family units.

Cameron said she can’t believe the project is even being proposed.

In conversations with Bice she said he had described the lot as “peaceful” and a “beautiful spot.”

“Never once did he say, ‘You know, Sheila, I’m contemplating building a three-storey 17-unit apartment building,’ ” she said.

Further to that, “It just doesn’t belong here,” Cameron said.

Gedge agreed, adding the proposal is incompatible with the adjacent properties.

“I’d prefer that the zoning bylaw is respected,” he said, adding he’d like to see single-family homes built.

Both Gedge and Cameron worried about the precedent it would set if the town approved the development.

Her neighbour Harold Asikyan said that if the zoning change is approved, “there is nothing to stop anybody buying two lots in the Old Town and building up a two-storey.”

The lot takes up about 3,250 square metres, states the NPG report.

The proposed building will cover about 710 square metres – or 22 per cent – of the property.

Another 29 per cent of the property will be used for parking and 49 per cent for landscaping.

The NPG report states that access to the building will be through a 75-metre-long driveway located between 727 and 733 King St.

Neighbour Donna Rodgers said many residents never would have bought houses there had they known the vacant lot would become an apartment building.

Her husband David said many of his neighbours paid for $3 million homes with gorgeous sunset views.

“They value their sunsets, which are beautiful out over the vineyard.” He said.

But with the addition of an almost 12-metre-tall apartment building, those sunsets will “be totally wiped out,” he said.

While the planner’s report provides a shadow study, Gedge pointed out that it’s backward.

Architectural drawings submitted with the application appear to show that shadows are cast toward the direction of the sun.

The town will hold a virtual open house for the proposal July 25 and a public meeting on Sept. 12.

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