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Dundas development raises intensification debate

By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News

A multi-residential development first floated a year ago might become the election focal point of the ongoing intensification debate in Dundas.

Baldwin Street resident Justin Lewis said rezoning and official plan amendment applications for a nine storey, 73-unit building at 71 Main Street, across from Town Hall, should be an election issue.

He and other neighbours living near the property received notification of the amendment application last week — and have until August 22 to submit comments. But Lewis believes more residents should be informed, and involved.

“I will be contacting the ward (election) candidates to meet with them over the next few days,” he said.

Lewis questioned the push for residential intensification, and recent influx of large-scale condo buildings across the community, all in the name of a provincial growth policy.

“Is this the future of Dundas? Do we have the power to change it?” he said. “I have the feeling Dundas people don’t want it, but we don’t know what to do about it.”

Lewis raised several concerns about the amendment application and review process — in particular what he sees as a lack of opportunity for community consultation.

He said he will ask for an extension to the commenting period. Despite the August 22 deadline — leaving less than 21 days for public comment — the staff report and recommendation for the planning committee isn’t expected to go to a public meeting until early 2015.

Lewis said the process can be confusing to residents. And he pointed out many people with input are away on holidays.

The proposal includes the demolition of an existing single family home at 10 Baldwin St., next door to Lewis. It’s not clear whether that property will accommodate some of the 60 parking spots included in the application.

“It’s not clear what they want to do,” he said. “It’s hard to comment on something when you don’t have a lot of information.”

Lewis said the empty greenspace next to the Centurion apartments and across from Town Hall has been used as park by the community for at least 20 years. He said it’s been empty as long as he has lived nearby, and he’s seen children playing and people having picnics there.

“I don’t think people realize it’s not a park,” Lewis said, adding he’d like to see it become an official park space, after being used that way for decades.

The last buildings on the property were apparently demolished by a previous owner in 1972 to create a better view for residents of the Centurion apartments next door.

David Horwood of Effort Trust, owner of 71 Main and the Centurion apartments next door at 75 Main, presented the proposal to Dundas Community Council in June 2013.

Planning consultant Sergio Manchia said at the time the need to build higher than the currently permitted five to eight storeys was economic. He said it would be an expensive project to build, at $350 to $400 a square foot.

Then community council members Keith Sharp and the late Bill Kennedy both expressed concerns about the building’s height.

“It doesn’t fit in Dundas,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t feel like Dundas.”

Sharp said building something so much bigger than the five storeys permitted in the Dundas zoning by-law didn’t make sense.

Other community council members said it appeared to be a project that was likely to move ahead, and did not look too bad.

At that meeting last summer, Dundas city councillor Russ Powers said a second apartment building had long been anticipated for the site.

The project is expected to maintain a laneway that runs through the property and serves homes on both Baldwin and Dundas streets.

Lewis said it’s already difficult enough to access Main Street from the laneway, without adding more parking and traffic to the area.

“I’m going to rally the neighbours,” he said.

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