The first report of the city’s site plan control committee for 2019 will be presented to council Monday (Jan. 21) and it deals in
depth with the application filed by the Sierra Group of Companies for the proposed Alma property development.
The Sierra Group is the consultant for Patriot Properties which is purchasing the site and seeks to build a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property.
The development is to be completed in three phases and, when finished, would be comprised of 430 apartment units.
Following a pair of site plan meetings in November and December, the committee passed a resolution recommending council consider the application for final approval.
Patriot Properties has not yet purchased the 11-acre site from London developer Gino Reale, pending completion of soil remediation work and removing what remains of the former buildings.
The residential development would occupy approximately seven acres.
In the first phase, an eight-storey building – 75 feet in height with 155 units – would be completed at the northwest corner of the property.
Phase 2 would see a nine-storey building – 92 feet in height – with 167 units built on the southwest limit of the site.
The final phase will be a seven-storey structure – 72 feet in height – housing 108 units along the McIntyre Street frontage.
There will be provision for 138 surface parking spaces and 409 underground spots.
The main vehicle access into the property will at the intersection of Ross Street and Forest Avenue. A second access is proposed at the west end of McIntyre Street with no vehicle entry through the main gate at the intersection of Moore and McIntyre streets.
Here’s where it might get interesting.
As part of the development design, Patriot Properties is proposing several commemorative features in lieu of replication of the former Alma College facade.
Remember, this was part of an Ontario Municipal Board order registered on the title of the lands.
So, what are these proposed commemorative features?
Well, an “historical central garden feature” is to be reinstated in its original location at the former school for girls.
Also being proposed is a commemorative sculpture to be located on the footprint of the Victorian spire of Alma’s main building. This could possibly be the focal point of the entire development.
Patriot Properties is proposing to create an Alma College Square as a so-called heritage zone which would include an outline of the main building footprint.
And finally, heritage interpretation panels are to be installed on site.
All of this is contingent upon rescinding a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board order requiring any development on the Alma property to “include a faithful and accurate representation of the front facade of the college building.”
Last September, city council unanimously endorsed a motion to initiate the process.
City manager Wendell Graves previously noted there is no way to predict how long it might take for Environment & Land Tribunals Ontario – which adjudicates matters related to land use planning, environmental and heritage protection, property assessment, land valuation, and other matters – to have the OMB order removed from the Alma property.
Also on the agenda Monday is council approval of the 2019 operating and capital budgets.
The estimated capital expenditures for this year total $23.7 million and the operating budget figure is $127.3 million.
The municipal property tax levy will be $54.8 million, requiring a 1.8 per cent hike over last year.
Still to be determined is the allocation of grants to community groups and services. The aim is to limit grant funding to one-half per cent of the general tax levy or approximately $261,800.
IT’S A LEARNING PROCESS
In December, we updated readers on what has transpired since last summer with regard to allegations made by former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers against the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre.
Her employment at the centre was formally terminated with cause last April. In July, she initiated legal action against the centre, alleging among other things, she was sexually assaulted by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service who was on the centre’s board of directors at the time.
In a counterclaim filed in August, the centre alleges Riddell-Laemers failed to obtain proper approvals from the Ministry of Education prior to demolishing a wall in one of the facilities; improperly disbursed wage enhancement funds; used centre credit cards for personal expenses; harassed and bullied staff; and engaged in intimate interactions in the office which were overheard by staff.
The allegations have not been proven in court and no dates have yet been established to begin addressing the claims from both sides.
In the meantime, it appears Riddell-Laemers has begun operating a home care centre under the banner Deeply Rooted Montessori Academy.
Last year, she had hoped to operate a centre out of 9599 Sunset Drive – site of the former Club 99 massage parlour damaged by fire in January of 2012.
That fell through, as Riddell-Laemers explains on Facebook, when “The owner of the facility would not bring the building up to fire regulation that the building code required. I was working closely with the city to try and reconcile the situation but I was not successful. So I had to move out of the school and regroup.”
Curious about that relationship with the city, we checked in with Elizabeth Sebestyen, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services director who indicated the school venture “would have been something she (Riddell-Laemers) had done on her own.”
Sebestyen continued, “When Irma was here (Irma Pedersen, who retired last year as supervisor of children’s services at the St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Department), there was some correspondence. She said she had been approached by Patricia about a school there, but there is a whole process you have to go through because a school like that would have to be licensed by the province.
“But we didn’t go into any kind of agreement with Patricia at the time.”
This corner will continue to follow this evolving story.
THE READERS WRITE
The proposed residential development on the Alma College property continues to elicit plenty of feedback from readers.
Greg Decock writes on Facebook, “Anyone that wishes a say on Alma or access to the property should buy it … otherwise, let them build.”
Leo Anthony checks in with, “The Alma College Alumnae should put their money where their mouth is!”
City council opting in on cannabis retail outlets this week generated this observation from Leith Coghlin.
“Here’s an idea for St. Thomas to consider: try a pilot project in collaboration with all the concerned interests to test practices and control measures. Important lessons learned can be drawn from municipalities and jurisdictions both in the US and Europe that have had substantive experience in this regard.
“Customize to our conditions here, trial it, ensure there are reasonable and practical standards to assess objectives. If they’re working keep it, not working try something else, or if some work and some don’t replace those that don’t with new concepts. I suspect too many on both the pro and con sides are adopting a view that whatever is decided in the immediate term is irreversible and cannot be improved or mitigated. But corrections only work if there are data and evidence to inform the process.”
Still with cannabis outlets, Timothy Hedden advises, “I get both sides. Ultimately it’s happening and we can either benefit from it or not. Health risks actually go down with education and a controlled supply.”
St. Thomas councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Tinlin were the lone voices opposed to opting in this week and their stance generated this criticism from Amelia M.L., “Kohler and Tinlin still living in the 20th century. You keeps voting these fools in?”
Fair to assume Amelia did not vote for either member?
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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