Special to The Lake Report
The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, its councillors and staff are mandated to legally and ethically uphold the official plan and its bylaws without favour to any individual developer.
The proposed development off 727-733 King St. and adjacent to Meritage Lane is contrary to multiple requirements of the official plan.
The developer last week deposited with the town an updated site plan of the property and there were no material changes to the three-storey condominium proposal. These are the violations that I am aware of:
1. The official plan requires any apartment to not access a local street: “Traffic to and from the location will not be directed towards local streets …”
King Street is a local street as per schedule G of the official plan and confirmed by staff. King Street is the only entrance or exit for this property. This by itself should cause the application for rezoning and an apartment to be rejected.
2. The official plan mandates that parking will be located at the rear of the apartment building.
The proposed building has parking at the front of the building and therefore does not meet the official plan requirement.
3. The density requested by the developer is 22 units per acre. The official plan dictates that the maximum density for R1 is six units per acre and for RM, 12 units per acre. This requested density is almost four times what is currently permitted and almost two times for medium density zoning.
King Street, Heritage Lane and Cottage Street do not exceed six units per acre. There is no compatibility in density between what is being proposed and the neighbouring streets.
4. An apartment building is not compatible nor does it integrate with neighbouring streets as above and it negatively affects lower-density residential uses. The official plan states: “The height, bulk and arrangement of buildings and structures will achieve a harmonious design and integrate with the surrounding areas and not negatively impact on lower-density residential uses.”
The height of the building (with its flat roof and mechanicals) is much higher than surrounding steepled houses eg. 20 feet from the balconies at the rear is a bungalow with a side of 12 feet and a sloped roof to 25 feet of height in total.
This proposed building will be 39 feet plus mechanicals (the height of which is still not disclosed by the developer).
Sunlight is blocked into houses year-round, including up to six hours out of nine hours daily.
Some eight to nine houses will have no privacy indoors or in their yards.
This all contradicts the official plan, which also states: “In circumstances where a proposed development supports the town’s intensification target but does not support the compatibility policies of the town, the compatibility policies will prevail.”
5. Under the official plan it is mandatory for a developer to analyze the impact of the proposal on neighbouring houses and streets. The official plan states this in many sections, including on page 240: “… new residential developments in these areas (i.e. Old Town) consisting of more than two units will be accompanied by a detailed site and area analysis demonstrating that there will be minimal impact on surrounding neighbourhoods and development.”
The developer refused to do that analysis for Meritage Lane, which is abutting the building some 16 feet and 20 feet away respectively. This refusal was explicitly stated by Aaron Butler (representing the developer Bice) at the July 25, 2023, open house.
Similarly, the developer refused to provide full disclosures as required under the Planning Act and as required by the pre-consultation agreement. This violated the Planning Act and disrespected all the work that town staff invested in the pre-consultation agreement.
The application should be rejected for not meeting this requirement of the official plan to do the required analyses. It should not be up to staff or residents to do the analyses the developer refused to do.
The official plan identifies intensification areas for NOTL. It states: “Direct appropriate intensification to designated intensification areas.”
The developer portrays the proposal as an intensification project but these lots created from backyards are not designated by the official plan as intensification areas. Therefore that rationale is contrary to the official plan.
7. There are three more favours being asked by the developer that are contrary to the town’s policies: he wants the length of the laneway approved at 24 per cent less than the minimum; he wants to not provide a children’s play area (as required) and wants the fence facing agricultural land to be ornamental not wood as prescribed.
8. There is an outstanding question that has yet to be legally addressed to our knowledge. When these lots were consolidated for development by the committee of adjustment on Oct. 20, 2022, there was a legally binding condition attached to that approval, and accepted by the developer.
The condition was that the maximum lot coverage for a building could not exceed 15 per cent. If that condition was not applied then this new lot would not have been approved.
In our view the 15 per cent condition still applies as it relates to the creation of the lot itself not the type of building(s) to be built. We have no legal evidence contrary to this viewpoint.
In this case the proposed apartment does not meet this condition.
9. Although not legal in nature there is a simple question of democracy and elected officials representing the views of their community.
Well over 400 residents took the time to register their names in opposition to the development. In canvassing homes, we found 98 out of 100 signed in opposition. This 98 per cent clearly reflects the will of the community.
Patrick Gedge lives on Meritage Lane, near the site of the proposed King Street development.