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The zoning of 394 College Street currently does not permit the conversion to 5 unit apartments although an interior demolition permit has already been approved.  There were multiple delegations at the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on Sept 11 – some in favour and some against.  At the end of the meeting, Council debated what to do but ultimately decided that they should follow Staff recommendations and approve changing the Zoning to R4 with conditions.  The conditions would be enforced by putting a hold on approval (using symbol “H”) until Site plans have been submitted and approved.  So it will come back to Council again!

There were two delegations against staff recommendations and two in favour; also more letters from residents were documented - some were in favour, some against.

Delegations against

Margaret Wrightson, Simon Chorley, Emily Chorley and Brian Wynn

Only Margaret and Simon spoke.

Margaret said: “We are not against change” but want “balance and fairness”.  She said that residents understand the need to meet legislation requirements.  She wanted the R3 zoning to remain since it would be hard  to revert from R4. [R3 allows up to 2 units while R4 would allow the 5 requested; however, it’s possible to have R3 with an exception which would permit more than 2 units].  Margaret (and others) said that one unit per floor would be a good compromise – that would result in 4 units instead of 5.  If the two small units were replaced with one larger unit, it would mean the expected tenants would be more likely to be long term.

Simon said that their delegation represented 100 residents across Cobourg – it’s not just an issue for College Street.  In later comments, Mayor Brocanier said that this application is bigger than just 394 College; he asked “Does Council want to follow County and Provincial rules or argue a losing case at the OMB?  We will be faced with more similar applications for intensification”.

Simon said that there had already been three tenants in the building – from October 2016 to June 2017 when they were evicted.

He also said that the planning process had not addressed alternatives.  He said that the Heritage Advisory committee has not been consulted but they should be. [In fact the Heritage committee were notified of the application but because it did not affect the exterior, they did not review it].

Richard Pope

Richard said:

  • This kind of change should not be allowed anywhere in a heritage district.
  • There was inadequate consultation
  • The report from planning is more a defence of a position than a look at both sides.
  • Intensification is not meant to apply to Heritage Districts
  • The original planners who chose R3 should not be over-ridden
  • Heritage is not just a façade
  • Absentee landlords have not been good for the Town – look at the building on the North East corner of Division and King which has been deserted for a decade.

Richard wants the decision deferred until it’s reviewed by the Heritage Advisory Committee and the zoning bylaw is reviewed.  He wanted to know if there are better options.

Delegations in Favour

Affordable Housing Committee Representatives

David Sheffield, Kristina Nairn and Neil Ellis from the Northumberland County Affordable Housing Committee spoke in favour of the application.  They pointed out that the local vacancy rate is currently 0.3% when a more normal number is 3%.  They said there is a continuum of housing options and even higher end units will help.  They said that currently, the largest need for rental units is for single units.  There has been a statistically large increase of one person households – it’s now the largest demographic.  This proposal is much needed.

In response to a question from Councillor Forrest Rowden, David said that the Home Share program is going well (More on this program here).

Andrew Smith

Andrew is the architect hired by the applicant Kristy MacDonald – he said there were factual inaccuracies in the statements by those objecting.

  • The Heritage Advisory Committee has in fact reviewed the application and has no problem [In fact the Heritage committee were notified of the application but because it did not affect the exterior, they did not review it].
  • A Traffic study is not required since there would be too little change.
  • It is not within the authority of the Planning Department to look at alternative options.
  • It would not be a precedent since there are R4 zones nearby.
  • If there were one unit instead of two on the second floor, it would mean that to meet fire regulations, an external fire escape would be required.

Response by Planning Manager Rob Franklin

Rob said:

  • The process was not rushed
  • The mandate of the Planning department is the “Public Good” not “Public Support”.
  • The report was the result of team work – the heritage planner was involved.
  • In response to a question:  “You don’t know what you’ll face at the OMB”.
  • It’s not a precedent since there are other multi-unit buildings in heritage districts
  • The application cannot be deferred since a delay could result in an appeal to the OMB.

Council Debate

If the case went to the OMB because the application was rejected, an outside planner would have to be found who would support this decision and Gil said that he thought that would be impossible and the Town would lose the case.

There was considerable debate about the option of using R3 zoning with an exception versus R4 with conditions.  The advantage of R3 is that it makes it obvious that this is an exception [Sorry if I got this wrong – it was not very clear].

Suzanne Séguin spoke strongly in favour of rejecting the R4 designation since R3 would better guard against future change.

Debra McCarthy spoke strongly in favour of the staff recommendation – she said “Human rights trump heritage” and we don’t have the right to choose neighbours.

John Henderson was concerned that a future owner could convert to a boarding  house which he believed to be undesirable.  Director of Planning Glenn McGlashon said that in either case (R3 or R4), the zone change would be site specific and a boarding house would not be allowed without further rezoning.

Gil Brocanier agreed with R4 because conditions can be attached.

Forrest Rowden agreed with Debra.

Suzanne said that Council has to listen to the people.

Aaron Burchat said that he supported the application and further that “we need people like Kristy downtown”.

Gil and Debra both said they did listen – Council has to make decisions.

Gil praised Rob Franklin’s comprehensive report – he quoted a third party Municipal expert who said it’s the best report of its kind he has ever seen.

John Henderson said that the Town would never win at the OMB if the application were rejected.

Brian Darling was not at the Council Meeting.

The vote was 5 to 1 in favour of approving R4 zoning with conditions as recommended by staff.  Suzanne Séguin voted against.

Below are photos of the delegations.

Margaret WrightsonMargaret Wrightson Simon ChorleySimon Chorley Richard Pope 230Richard Pope

Kristina Nairn, David Sheffield, Neil EllisKristina Nairn, David Sheffield, Neil Ellis Andrew SmithAndrew SmithRob FranklinRob Franklin - Manager of Planning

Update - 18 September 2017

The process for this rezoning included a Public Meeting, a Committee of the Whole meeting and finally a regular Council meeting. At each meeting, the applicant and objectors presented their concerns. The Committee of the Whole decided to proceed with zoning R4 with conditions as recommended by the Planning Department. At the Regular Council meeting, although there were further presentations and a long debate on the merits of R3 with exceptions versus R4 with exceptions, in the end the vote was the same: 5 to 1 to proceed as recommended, the lone dissenter was Suzanne Séguin.

The arguments presented by both sides were not much different although Kristy had her lawyer address concerns that the rezoning would reduce property values. Jason Schmidt said that there was no good argument that the Heritage value would be eroded - he said that was hypothetical and speculative. He pointed to the value of independent "expert witnesses" and said that the reports by Planning Manager Rob Franklin were impartial and Rob could be considered an "expert witness".

One issue was that many nearby residents had not been informed of the change proposed.

Glenn McGlashon responded that as required, notices had been made:

  1. In the local Newspaper (Northumberland Today)
  2. Owners had been sent letters. These were sent to the last address on the assessment roll or in the case of Condominiums, to the most recent registered address. In the case of Ryerson Commons this was the property manager, Genedco, who said they had not received notification. Although not mentioned in the Council meeting, that's probably because they recently changed their address.
  3. On the Town's web site.

An amendment was proposed by John Henderson to change from R4 with conditions to R3 with conditions (and still allow 5 apartments). This motion was defeated.

The next step at Council is to approve the site plan.


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