Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s also a prime reason Woolwich councillors this week approved a three-storey, 18-unit condominium development on the site of the former Elmira pool building on Ernst Street.
Citing the need for alternative housing, particularly for seniors looking to remain in Elmira while downsizing from their single-family homes, councillors backed a proposal by the current owners to rezone the property.
The site was purchased in 2011 by 2284578 Ontario Inc. for $450,000, and has been home to the Waterloo Regional Synchronized Swimming Club since that time. The principals of the company – Erika Lindner and Leanne McDonnell – want to redevelop the 0.75-acre site at the corner of Ernst Street and Snyder Avenue.
Where the original application submitted last summer called for four storeys, the owner has reduced the height following feedback from the neighbours, who were out in force at a July public meeting to argue against the project.
Jeremy Vink, Woolwich’s manager of planning, said the company has been working to deal with concerns, including dropping the height to three storeys.
“It is in keeping with the rest of the neighbourhood as far as height goes, said Vink, adding the owners are also interested in giving the building a multi-dimensional façade to help it blend into the neighbourhood of older homes.
Neighbours who originally panned the project appear to have had some of their concerns addressed as the company consulted with them, he explained.
Still, those such as Ernst Street’s Wayne Turpel remain “concerned” that the drawings presented by the owners may not line up with plans for the site.
“My main objection is we don’t know anymore what this project will look like,” he said.
Councillors, however, welcomed the chance for some diversity in the housing market.
In that, they were joined by Elmira realtor Brad Martin, who supported the proposal in an address to council.
“We have a huge void in this town for people to downsize,” he said of an option that is lacking.”I know nobody wants it in their backyard,” he added. “It’s a product that’s needed in this market.”
Greg Romanick, a planner with Stantec Consulting representing the applicant, said changes made to the plan reflect the comments the company heard from the public.
“It’s an appropriate and needed form of residential housing in Elmira,” he said of the project.
Coun. Larry Shantz also backed the plan, pointing to the housing need. He added the owners were making efforts to appease the neighbours.
As it stands, the plan leaves flexibility for the building design, specifics that will be discussed in the site-plan approval process down the road, said Vink.
Romanick noted the proposal calls for larger setbacks in the rear and side yards than what is required under the zoning. The side and backyards would require a 7.5-metre buffer to neighbouring properties, but the plan is for nine metres on the size and 14 metres in the rear yard.
Mayor Sandy Shantz pushed for the rear yard setback to be 20 metres, finding a receptive group around the council table.