Would you welcome a 25-storey highrise apartment building in your Niagara-on-the-Lake community?
Or better yet, would you welcome a cluster of apartments at 17, 18, 21 and 25 storeys on a two-hectare (five-acre) patch of land near where you live?
That is the question I have been asking residents on social media after news of the proposed White Oaks Resort and Spa residential development was first published in The Lake Report.
Mostly the question was directed to residents supporting the White Oaks development in Glendale, but only one response has been received so far. That person supports the proposal.
This plan was released without fanfare and local residents only learned about it a few hours before an open house on the development application.
The only visible signs in the community were several small, yellow public notices on the lawn at White Oaks. They were only up briefly and were so small you would have to stop and go up to the sign to understand what it was about.
The following week during town council’s planning meeting, the White Oaks development application was one of four items and the last of the four to be heard.
The proposal was not addressed until about the three-and-a-half-hour mark of the meeting.
There were six NOTL residents registered to speak, but because it took so long to get to the White Oaks item, only two residents remained. It was over four hours before a resident from the Niagara on the Green neighbourhood was invited to have their say.
White Oaks has proposed four residential and mixed-use towers of 17, 18, 21 and 25 storeys, all fronting at the street edge of Glendale Avenue and Taylor Road.
The tallest tower would be right at the corner of Glendale and Taylor. Setbacks on Taylor Road would be between three and 10 metres.
The approved Niagara Region Glendale Niagara District Plan stipulates the southern end of the White Oaks property as high-density, but it does not specify building heights.
However, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Glendale secondary plan, first approved in 2010 and now undergoing an update to bring it in line with the region’s district plan, does prescribe building heights and setbacks for the White Oaks’ property.
Section 3.3 deals with land use and site development while section 3.3.7 specifically deals with White Oaks.
The secondary plan states buildings along Taylor Road will be three to five storeys and also says “notwithstanding the height limit of 16 storeys for buildings in the centre of the site, one building in this area may be permitted a maximum height of 20 storeys.”
One reason building heights are limited is to not detract from views of the Niagara Escarpment. Federal rules also restrict heights due to the proximity of the Niagara District Airport.
Regarding setbacks, the secondary plan states, “To provide an appropriate transition to lower buildings on surrounding properties, portions of buildings above eight storeys shall be set back a minimum of 30 metres from Taylor Road and a minimum of 60 metres from the southern-most point of the site.”
White Oaks’ proposal puts the highest buildings closest to the intersection, tiered backward to the lower buildings, which is contrary to the secondary plan.
This proposal does not respect the policies in the Glendale secondary plan, even though during the public meeting White Oaks’ planner cherry-picked several excerpts that suited the developer’s arguments.
Residents in the area have started a petition urging town council to deny the proposal as presented.
The petition is being shared on local Facebook groups. There is also a paper copy circulating door-to-door in the Niagara on the Green neighbourhood. As of Wednesday of this week, it had garnered more than 275 signatures.
Residents are not opposed to development in Glendale. Reasonable development is welcomed as residents know that increased population in Glendale will eventually be followed with desired amenities.
However, given the town and regional plans for the area, the proposed White Oaks project is not a reasonable development, in my opinion.
And it is certainly not necessary for the region to achieve its population targets for Glendale of 19,000 residents and 8,500 jobs at full build-out.
Steve Hardaker has lived in Glendale for over 13 years and is active in many community organizations.