The Lions Hall on the South Island Highway was overflowing Thursday night as Willow Point residents got their first say on a proposed development and rezoning application for three lots along Penfield Road between Goodwin and Holm.
The meeting was organized by McElhanney Consulting on behalf of Kent Laverdure of KLP Construction, who has purchased and would like to develop the three properties in question. Mark Degagne of McElhanney opened by telling the crowd of approximately 200 concerned residents that they want to explore all options and address everyone’s concerns in developing their proposal for the city. The development application is currently on hold while they do so.
“This meeting is a precursor to the (official) meeting that will happen once we actually put our application back on the table at the city,” Degagne said.
The property at 2500 Penfield Road, Degagne told the crowd, “is an oddly shaped property, and we didn’t really know how to best configure that lot, so we engaged an architect, told them we want to get some density out of it – because we have to build a road, we have to get Hydro, we have to get big storm sewers and all that good stuff to make this development happen.”
So the architect created a design that would see that lot become four separate, two-storey, eight-apartment units.
Across the street at 2405 Penfield, the initial design was to have three such apartment units, along with two triplexes and two duplexes.
At 2400 Penfield, Degagne told the crowd, the initial design was to turn the 14 lots into “a mix of single-family residences and duplexes.”
That initial plan was then presented to the city. The city, Degagne said, then recommended they apply to have the land rezoned RM-2. The sign then went up at the corner of Goodwin and Penfield announcing the developer’s plans, “and it seems all hell broke loose in the neighbourhood,” Degagne said, but he completely understands why neighbours would react the way they did.
“RM-2 allows for 50 units per hectare, with up to 10 more units per hectare for bonus density if you give some money for parks and do some underground parking … and it does allow for some fairly high buildings – up to 15 metres, which is five storeys,” Degagne said.
That designation wasn’t reflective of what kind of development they had in mind anyway, so they’re perfectly okay with not continuing to follow that course.
He told the crowd that the RM-2 designation “is now off the table,” but he is hoping, through this series of consultations, to find some middle ground that everyone can be happy with and develop a comprehensive development plan to take to the city that has the support of the neighbours so they can get the project underway.
“I’m not going to speak for council, but with this many naysayers to what we have on the board, I don’t think we’re going to get our development passed, so it’s probably not even worth pursuing unless we change some things,” Degagne said, to which he received raucous applause.
Many in the room were wearing red stickers reading “R1 ONLY,” which was the overwhelming response Degagne and KLP Construction received when the floor opened for feedback.
The consensus seemed to be that everyone knew those properties would be developed eventually, but they were under the impression – and many claim they were expressly told by the city – that those lots could only ever be developed as single family homes, and they want the city to live up to that commitment.
“My personal view is that the only acceptable development there would be R1, as has been planned by the existing zoning and the mayors and councils that have gone before us,” said Burk Quintrell, who called for a show of hands from those who agree – a call to which very few hands did not go up in agreement.
Mike Beatty, who lives on nearby Joanne Drive, possibly best summed up the views of the crowd when he addressed Degagne during the open forum.
“If there were three duplexes behind my house when I bought it, I would have paid $8,000 less for that house,” Beatty said. “I probably wouldn’t have bought it all, actually. I think there’s consensus amongst the people here – and there are a lot of people here – that the only acceptable zoning of those properties is R1. The only guys who benefit from any rezoning is the developer and his real estate agent.”
The discussions will now continue as the developer and consultants try to find a way to “get enough families into that area to make the development pay for itself,” Degagne said. “We have maybe one or two more times where we can get together to discuss how to shape the neighbourhood so that it better fits everybody,” before going before council with an official proposal, at which point there will be more opportunity for feedback.
There was some concern expressed that not everyone who wants to have a say will be able to speak before council once the application gets to the approval stage at City Hall – because there would be limited time for the meeting.
But Mayor Andy Adams assured the residents that would not be the case.
“It has been quite a few years, but we have had public meetings that have lasted three nights,” he said, assuring the residents that everyone who wants to have a say will be heard by council should they attend the public meeting once it is at that point in the process.