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Woolwich defers decision on apartment plan for old Elmira neighbourhood

Still concerned about the development’s potential impact on the neighbourhood, Woolwich councillors deferred a decision on a plan to convert an Elmira home into a six-unit apartment building.

Owners Murray and Patricia Horst are seeking to have the property at 3 Riverside Dr. W. rezoned to allow for the creation of a multi-unit complex by renovating the existing house and constructing an addition to the rear of the dwelling. The rest of the lot would essentially be filled with seven parking spaces and a two-lane driveway.

The Horsts’ bid would see the zoning on the property changed from ‘residential – mixed high density (R-5)’ to ‘residential multiple (R-7) with site specific regulations.’

When it was first proposed at a public meeting last summer, the project drew criticism from neighbours worried it would not fit in among the non-standard lots that create a patchwork of homes in an older area of town. While Woolwich planning staff are now willing to back the zone change, the concerns of the one neighbour who’ll suffer the most adverse effects gave councillors pause.

Bev McKeown lives at 4-1/2 William St., an essentially landlocked property accessed by an easement that runs through the Horsts’ Riverside lot. He told councillors meeting Tuesday night the apartment building, with a fenced-off parking lot and garbage collection area abutting his property, would have a dramatically negative impact on his home.

Already fenced in on three sides, the irregular lot would become prison-like, he suggested.

“It’ll be just like Kingston or Millhaven – you’ll have to look up if you want to see anything,” he said. “It’s going to devalue our property more than it is already.”

Coun. Patrick Merlihan appeared most sympathetic to McKeown’s plight.

Having visited the site, the Ward 1 councillor picked up on a number of potential problems, from garbage disposal and pickup to parking, as the lot configuration makes for a very tight squeeze.

He questioned director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley about how much consideration was given to the impact on the McKeowns, suggesting the many negatives can’t be easily explained away.

“The owner of 4-1/2 William wasn’t considered for the enjoyment of their own property.”

Kennaley said staff did in fact take the property into consideration, judging the impacts manageable and maintaining the project would fit into the wider neighbourhood. The building’s intensification of the property is in keeping with provincial and regional guidelines aimed at reducing urban sprawl.

Pointing to past “planning abominations” that created lots such as 4-1/2 William St., Merlihan argued this was not the place to shoehorn in more people.

“This is a location that doesn’t need intensification,” he said.

Coun. Larry Shantz, sharing concerns about the narrow driveway, grading issues and the creation of traffic where none now exists, raised questions about the impact on the McKeown property, including the glare of headlights from cars entering the apartment building’s parking lot, potentially “at all hours.”

Uncertainty about those issues eventually prompted council to defer discussion on the application until Oct. 4.

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