I applaud the newly formed committee addressing the proposed residential plan for the former Parliament Oak school site as featured on Page 1 of the Dec. 16 edition of The Lake Report. After reading the article I’d like to make two comments.
I want to challenge the statement that the density on the adjoining residential blocks is six houses per acre.
The seven blocks immediately surrounding the Parliament Oak school site contain 111 houses on 32 acres (six blocks are roughly four acres, one is more than eight acres) for a density of 3.47 houses per acre, as shown on the accompanying map.
On six of the seven blocks, densities range from 1.5 to 4.25 houses/acre. The seventh block — bounded by King, Castlereagh and Davy streets as well as Veterans Lane — contains 25 mostly wartime houses with a density of 6.25 houses/acre.
If the seventh block was removed — these homes are a unique enclave but not representative ofthe spaciousness of Old Town — the overall average of the remaining six blocks is 3.07 houses/acre.
This analysis brings to light the absurdity of the developer’s plan, which contains a density of 20 units/acre. More importantly, and this is my second point, by proposing something so egregious, Liberty Sites has skilfully shifted the narrative to “how much is too much” versus why are we permitting institutional-zoned land to be converted to residential land in the first place.
Even the town's municipal heritage committee has fallen into the trap of giving the proposal credibility by making suggestions on how to “tweak” the design.
If Niagara-on-the-Lake loses an entire block of institutionally zoned land for residential development, where will this institutional/open space/public land be replicated in the future?
The nearby Parks Canada lands, known as the Commons, is a welcome green space but it should not be looked upon as a replacement for municipal services.
Is council prepared to give up, forever, one of the only full blocks of institutional space in Old Town?
Liberty Sites was well aware of the zoning on this land when it purchased the property. The developer has moved the argument from one of land use to one of density.
Town staff and council should not get caught in this trap. Let Parliament Oak be the watershed moment where Niagara-on-the-Lake says “Enough!”