The new owners of a vacant feed mill in Conestogo envision the spot reborn as something of an entertainment hub, with a banquet hall, restaurant, gallery, studio and perhaps even a craft distillery. To get there, however, they’ll need new zoning for the site.
The properties at 1795 and 1805 Sawmill Rd. – the former W-S Feed & Supply headquarters –are within the Conestogo urban boundary but are zoned agricultural, with a site-specific provision for a feed mill. The owner, Conestogo Mill Inc., wants to change the site-specific stats to permit a range of mixed commercial uses.
Under the zone-change application, the owner is looking to a four part usage for the 3.5-acre site, focusing on the former mill building. The three-storey eastern portion would be for the widest range of uses, including an assembly hall, banquet facilities, commercial entertainment, showrooms and indoor storage/warehousing. The two-storey western part of the old mill could house accessory uses to those options, as well as a small-form distillery, manager of planning Jeremy Vink told Woolwich councillors meeting via videoconference on Tuesday night.
Steve Jefferson, a planner with K. Smart Associates representing Conestogo Mill Inc. said the plan is to repurpose the vacant mill for a variety of purposes tailored to the list of commercial uses best suited to the site. A small distillery is being proposed, but is not part of the immediate plans.
“The landowners have investigated the potential for the installation of a craft distillery. The building plans at this time do not include that use. If it deemed feasible to pursue in the future, the landowners will have to go through the specialized design process for the equipment, subject to the approval of the township’s chief building official,” he said.
In addition to the applicant, just one other person addressed the public meeting, neighbouring resident Eilleen Yorysh, who raised concerns about the suitability of the project, especially in regards to parking and traffic issues.
“The scale of the proposal of this development may be too large for this site, including the proposed future improvements, which would only cause future parking problems, especially if there is more than one event going on simultaneously,” she said in a written statement to councillors.
“Sightlines are not easy with access to entering or leaving with your property. Sawmill Road is a narrow road at the driveways. One driveway is on a curve The other is steep and difficult to use. And experience shows that traffic backup will likely cause unsafe congestion.”
Yorysh also raised the concerns brought up by her neighbours, including noise issues, the prospect of more commercial development on adjacent properties and lighting on the site.
Addressing some of the issues raised, Jefferson noted that parking studies found the development would need 77 spaces, with the plan providing room for 80. On the traffic front, the plan would be to hold only one event at a time, reducing parking and traffic concerns.
The site adjacent the river was the longtime home of W-S Feed & Supplies, with operated there for more than four decades starting in 1967, but which has been vacant for a few years. The November 3 meeting was a public information session, with council making no decisions. A report will come back to council at a later date once planning staff have reviewed the application and public comments.