I’d like to thank the many residents of East Guelph for your comments, phone calls and email messages received in the weeks leading up to the Council planning meeting last night (Dec 8, 2014). I have been listening to resident concerns related to the balance of residential and commercial growth on the subject properties at Starwood/Watson and believe these concerns have served a reminder to council and city staff just how important the East End Node (inclusive of commercial development and a grocery store) is to our community. I’m proud of the level of engagement this file has garnered in the East End as it demonstrates the level of ownership residents feel toward ensuring our community is developed in a sustainable/desirable way.
Based on the questions/answers provided below my decision to support the proposed development at 144 Watson was based on the following factors;
- Given the land use designation and vision for the area the city did not have a strong case to compel the developer to build commercial (ground floor or otherwise) on this property;
- Given that approx 30,000 square feet of commercial amenity space is committed to along Starwood;
- Given that meetings between city staff and Loblaw are progressing on the property to the southwest with the (Loblaw) intent to submit for a pre-consultation meeting in early 2015 to determine required planning approvals (correspondence received by the City dated Dec 3, from Loblaw);
- Given that residents have repeatedly expressed the desire for commercial growth in the East End but are resistant to the “Big Box” approach out of concern for increased traffic volumes and disturbances to otherwise quite and peaceful neighborhoods;
- Given the development maintains the walkable vision for the Mix Use Node and mitigates concerns related to the “Big Box” approach; and,
- My satisfaction with staff responses related to parking, green space, waste collection and storm water management.
In my closing remarks to Council I reiterated my desire to not only see the Mix Use Node come to fruition, but to use this Node as a catalyst for East Guelph to grow into its full employment and commercial potential. To this end, I drew attention to the need for upgrading the York Road Intensification Corridor (Victoria to Watson) identified in the Official Plan (http://guelph.ca/plans-and-strategies/official-plan/) as a necessary step to this achievement. The examples of modern roadways and streetscapes at Paisley/Imperial in the West End and Gordon/Clair in the South End serve as a model for attracting commercial and employment investment. I believe the East End of Guelph is no different. Investment in the York Road intensification corridor would
- Attract suitors to many of the currently vacant properties along York;
- Draw traffic volumes away from school zones along Grange;
- Create a true Eastern Gateway to Guelph from Highway 7; and,
- Satisfy many of the growth demands being placed on Guelph as a place to grow in Ontario (i.e. infill, intensification, minimizing sprawl).
All this while serving to unify the urban/suburban divide in our Ward.
Questions to City Staff
In the weeks leading up to the Dec 8, 2014 planning meeting I forwarded the following questions to city staff. Their responses are in bold.
- The proposed development at 144 Watson is approx 0.89 hectares in size. How does this proposal impact future development for the mixed use node? Specifically commercial in the remaining available land?
Response – Concern was raised by the public that the rezoning of the site to residential from commercial would limit the commercial opportunities for the area and was an example of incremental reduction in commercial space for this mixed use node.
The proposed development fits the Council-endorsed Urban Design Concept Plan, Principles and Illustrative Diagram for Watson/Starwood Mixed Use Node. This proposal fits into the vision for the node with commercial sites immediately to the south and mixed commercial and residential uses along Starwood Drive.
Staff are satisfied that the proposed development fits within the mixed use node designation and the rest of the node continues to provide sufficient opportunity for retail commercial and service uses to locate within the node.
- Is there anything precluding the city from compelling the developer to build commercial on this site (ground floor or otherwise)?
Response – The site is designated “Mixed Use Node” in the Official plan, which is intended to serve both the needs of residents living and working in nearby neighborhoods and employment districts and the wider city as a whole. This land use designation is intended to provide a wide range of retail, service, entertainment and recreational commercial uses as well as complementary uses including open space, institutional, cultural and educational uses, hotels and live-work studios. The proposed high density residential development is also permitted within the mixed use node land use designation.
- What of the reduced parking (1.2/unit) that is proposed as part of the development? How/will this impact local parking/traffic?
Response – A reduced Parking Ratio of 1.2 spaces per unit has been requested, where the standard zoning requires 1.5 spaces per unit for the first 20 units and 1.25 spaces per unit for each unit in excess of 20 units. This would result in a minimum of 172 parking spaces required for the site. The applicant has shown they can accommodate 168 with the current proposed building layout – they’ve asked for this to be reduce to 160 parking spaces to permit flexibility in the building design if needed (based on 133 units).
Staff has reviewed the parking justification found within the traffic study and examined other zoned sites in the City. The parking justification recommends that the average peak parking demand ratio for the site would be 1.2 parking spaces per unit, with an estimated parking demand of 160 spaces based on 133 units. Therefore the reduction is supported.
- What of the reduced common space (i.e. 6m2/unit) proposed as part of the development?
Response – Reduced Common Amenity Area of 6m2 per unit, where 30 m2 per unit up to 20 units and 20 m2 for each additional unit is required. This requested reduction is supported by staff given the location within the mixed use node and the on-site density achieved. There are four parks (Joe Veroni, O’Connor Lane, Lee Street and Severn Drive) within a 5 – 15 minute walk of the site and access to a trail along a natural area across Watson Road to the North. A park is also planned as part of the approved development (11 Starwood) which is directly across Watson Parkway from the site.
- What of waste collection on this site? Will residents have garbage collection from City or private contractor?
Response – Prior to issuance of site plan approval, written confirmation shall be received from the General Manager of Solid Waste Resources or his or her designate that the proposed development is in conformance with By-law (2011)-19199, known as the Waste Management By-law.
- Staff reports indicate some concerns related to the performance of SWMP 53 (specifically sediment loading) to the southwest. Does the City have plans to address these concerns prior to 144 Watson and 78 Watson moving forward in 2015? I’ll mention that this SWMP drains into Clythe Creek which has a coldwater designation associated with it.
Response – Staff have recommended that assessing and repairing this pond be prioritized by the City prior to this development proceeding. Through discussions within Engineering it has been agreed that this SWMP will be examined in detail in order to appropriately place it in sequence of priority for maintenance.