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 At a public meeting on August 21st, there was a lot of discussion about an application by Kristy MacDonald to convert the property at 394 College Street to 5 apartments.  Because there were many concerns raised, Aaron Buchart, Coordinator for Planning, asked that Manager of Planning Services Rob Franklin report on these concerns at the next Council meeting.  Rob has now published his comprehensive report and it will be presented at the next Committee of the Whole Council meeting on September 11.  Local residents will be disappointed and potential renters pleased with the fact that he confirms his original recommendation that the application be approved.  His report is long and detailed – 17 pages plus 12 pages of attached letters.

Details of the application were provided in an earlier post here. The public meeting and concerns raised were reported here.

Rob’s new report (provided in the Links below) includes better copies of the plans and provides detailed responses to each of the objections.  He also attaches a number of letters received from the public – mostly in support of the application.

Summary of Objections and Response

(see full report for complete, detailed response)

Concern Response
Traffic, parking, congestion, safety The application will result in only a minor increase in traffic.  There have been no accidents in this area since 1 Jan 2014.  The Zoning By-Law will include a holding symbol (H) to ensure that planning department requirements are met.
Noise Apart from noise during construction, there should not be excessive noise.  If there is, “the Municipality's Noise By-law regulates excessive noise and there is a process available to any citizen in the community where significant noise becomes an issue.”
Transient tenants/ short-term rentals
  • The tenancy of any form of dwelling unit (i.e. single detached, multiple dwellings), including length of tenancy thereof, is not a matter that is currently regulated under the Zoning By-law.
  • "Air BnB" and other similar services designed for short term rentals are not currently restricted in the Zoning By-law nor are they licenced by the Municipality - any dwelling unit, as a whole, in the community can be rented out for any amount of time.
  • A new comprehensive updated bylaw to go with the recently approved new Official Plan may address this issue but won’t come to Council until 2018.
  • Rental properties can be used by short or long term renters.
Precedent Each development application is evaluated on its own merits.
R4 apartment building and maintenance of heritage buildings
  • The examples provided of poorly maintained older buildings include some not in a Heritage district, others modified before Heritage Guidelines were issued and in some cases before Building permits were required.
  • “There are arguably many good examples of R4 and R5 heritage apartment buildings that are of quality standard in the community, including some recently renovated/ converted/ expanded, including 76 James St W, 299 and 305 George St; 128 Durham; and 428 John Street to name a few.”
  • “An argument that a rental building will be maintained any differently than an owner occupied building is not a land use planning grounds upon which to make a decision on the subject development application.”
Driveway to College Street Once the Site Plan is approved (without a driveway), changes may not be made without further Council approval
Owner occupied “There is no authority in the Planning Act for municipalities to dictate ownership or occupancy style (i.e. rental, owner-occupied)”
Long-term maintenance This is not managed by a Zoning By-Law
R3 vs R4 The official Plan allows more than double the proposed density.  Neighbouring areas are a mix of R3, R4 and R5
Not compatible with the neighbourhood
  • 'Neighbourhood' is generally characterized in planning terms as being within an approx. 5 minute walk (usually 2-3 blocks).
  • The neighbourhood surrounding 394 College Street is characterized by a wide variety of housing types and densities, including singles, semi's, townhouses, apartments and seniors residences, with a wide range of lot sizes and shapes. The proposal involves a modest increase in permitted density, involves little to no external changes and is generally compatible with the character of the existing neighbourhood
  • Owners of other lots in the greater neighbourhood have severed infill lots as a form of intensification and in a compatible manner.
Rights of residents for no change in neighbourhood
  • The Planning Act enables any person to request a zoning change
  • Needs change over time
East Heritage Conservation District Plan The application is compatible (see full report for a lot more detail)
4 or 5 units/basement A basement apartment unit is conceptually possible, subject to further details required at Building Permit stage.
Servicing The sewers can handle the change – there are no other concerns.

Information on Governing Policies

Rob also says that “Additional information was requested by Council on the planning policy direction from the various level of government beyond the original Planning Report” and he also responds to that.  In summary, the Provincial government dictates what Zoning may govern and provides guidelines about density, preserving Heritage, increasing density, providing access to Transit etc. The County says that “39% of all new residential units in Cobourg are to be located within the built boundary rather than greenfield areas in the form of intensification.” Cobourg’s new Official Plan says that intensification should include “Conversion of existing built heritage resources where the original building fabric, heritage attributes and architectural features are retained”.

The full report includes clearer versions of floor plans for the apartments – including the basement.

The sizes of these apartments have now been provided.

Unit B01 (basement) 1085 sq. ft.;
Unit 101 (ground floor) 985 sq. ft.;
Unit 201 (second floor) 465 sq. ft.;
Unit 202 (second floor) 617 sq. ft.;
Unit 301 (third floor) 951 sq. ft.

It looks like Rob has put in a lot of work on this report and provided 10 days for Councillors to read it before they are asked to approve his recommendation on September 11.


Update – September 4, 2017

College Street resident Simon Chorley has provided a response to Rob Franklin’s report.  He responds to each of Rob’s points – download his full response document here.

Below is a point form summary of his responses

  • Contrary to para 2 of Rob’s report, Simon says that “many people who made public submissions or formal email comments have not received this report”.
  • There is no objective analysis as to the veracity of submissions in support (received by the Town).
  • There is no record of concerns about traffic, safety and congestion because the 5 units are not yet occupied.
  • The size of the units is prohibitive in securing long-term tenants.
  • Re “Precedent”:  There needs to be a consistent application of zoning regarding neighbourhoods and building types. Zoning of modern or purpose-built buildings for multiple rental units is more appropriate than for heritage buildings with historical significance.
  • Re “Maintenance of heritage buildings”: The Heritage status and location of these buildings is irrelevant.
  • Simon says that a dismissal of arguments about rental buildings being maintained differently and that such arguments are not the basis for zoning shows an abdication of responsibility. Simon disagrees with Rob and says: “Zoning is a tool that can be used to ensure maintenance and prevent future problems” and “this property exhibits distinct historical attributes which should prevent this re-zoning proposal.”
  • Simon says that “Disrepair of nearby existing R4 multi-tenancy historic homes is evidence that the exterior is likely to deteriorate.”
  • “This planning report has not been amended to address the responses of residents. Their concerns have not been given due consideration in an objective fashion, and risks alienating the public and increasing local division.”
  • Re the East Heritage Conservation District Plan: “The report does not identify how the application is consistent with the district’s cultural heritage values” – the report should be based “on the evidence of past similar projects”.
  • The Heritage Advisory Committee was not consulted because no Heritage permit was required but they should have been consulted.
  • The Growth plan was said to require intensification and conservation of heritage resources but these requirements do not have to be fulfilled by the same building.
  • The proposal is in violation of the Official Plan.
  • Not all comments received by the municipality in opposition were attached.  This shows partiality.
  • Unit sizes have changed from the public meeting (Unit 201 was 400 sq. ft. but is now 465 sq. ft.)  This calls into question the reliability of the proposal.
  • Re Comments received: Many of the units are too small to attract long-term tenants, which combined with the likelihood of exterior decay, will lead to short-term occupancy and high-turnover, thereby reducing stability and predictability for tenants, as well as reducing community cohesion and connection. The Town has not considered alternative uses that are more appropriate and compatible (such as a duplex, condo units, or home occupation). There are numerous examples of nearby large historic homes in Cobourg, especially along George Street, that have stood empty for a while, but are now owner-occupied by families, many with home-run businesses, that do not require re-zoning.

If the above summary is not clear, or if you want more detail, please download Simon’s full document here.


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