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Neighbours unhappy with plans for Jakobstettel property

Plans are in the works to redevelop most of the 4.2-acre property in St. Jacobs, while retaining the heritage features of the building, which dates back to the late 19th century. [Joe Merlihan / The Observer]
Plans to cram more than two dozen homes onto the land surrounding the historic Jakobstettel house have nearby residents feeling less than neighbourly.

They turned out in numbers Tuesday night for a planning meeting in Woolwich council chambers, opposed to a proposal to build some 27 homes on a 3.25-acre portion of the land at 16 Isabella St. in St. Jacobs.

In letters submitted prior to the meeting, residents raised a laundry list of concerns about the proposal, from noise and traffic volumes through to incompatibility with the heritage value of the former Jakobstettel Inn and surrounding neighbourhood.

“Something needs to be done with the place and the property,” acknowledged Gerry Dyck, owner of the adjacent property, adding the proposal is not an appropriate way to develop the site. “It doesn’t fit the character of the neighbourhood.”

Going beyond a proposed heritage designation for the existing house, he suggested the whole neighbourhood should be considered.

His neighbour, Paul Kalbfleisch, said the plan does a “disservice to this property,” noting the development would change the very nature of the community, not a good example of infilling.

“It’s going to take a tranquil, park-like setting and turn it into suburbia,” he said, noting that he left just such a neighbourhood 23 years ago to enjoy village life in St. Jacobs.

Planner Amanda Stellings of Polocorp, representing owners GoldenEye Developments, maintained that the project would incorporate designs in keeping with the neighbourhood.

The current proposal calls for a 25-unit condominium plan, plus a pair of semi-detached homes fronting on Isabella Street. The current Jakobstettel guesthouse would be retained on a lot severed from what is now a 4.2-acre piece of property surrounding the home.

The condo units, served by a private road, would consist of 20 semi-detached homes and five single-detached houses, said Stellings. The units would be bungalow-style homes of one or one-and-half storeys, marketed to people looking to downsize and to empty-nesters.

That’s too many units, argued Isabella Street resident Rob Duench, who aired concerns about traffic and the resultant noise from wedging the new homes into the existing streetscape.

“The peaceful neighbourhood will be lost.”

Coun. Larry Shantz, too, expressed some concerns about the density of the project, for which 2306790 Ontario Inc. is seeking a zone change.

Stellings countered the lots would in fact be quite large.

This week’s meeting was simply an information session, with councillors not making any decisions. They’ll now await a staff report that will be completed once township planners have studied the applicant’s reports and the public’s input before coming back with a recommendation.

Concurrently with that process, Woolwich is also pushing ahead with heritage designation for the Jakobstettle house, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

Many of the home’s features date back to the original 19th century building and the early 20th century addition that essentially doubled the size of the structure. Work done in 1982, some of which altered historic features, won’t be included in the designation.

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