More than a decade ago, we began referring to St. Thomas resident Dawn Doty as the Alma College watchdog. That was prior to the May 28, 2008 fire that marked the beginning of the end for the former school for girls.
Doty, who owns property on McIntyre Street across from the three-tower residential development proposed by developer Michael Loewith, was instrumental – via a Freedom of Information request – in obtaining an Ontario Heritage Trust report which the provincial government of the day withheld from the public for more than two years.
That document encouraged “the municipality to refuse any request for demolition or substantial alteration that would destroy the building or heritage attributes.”
It’s a moot point all these years later, but it demonstrates the passion of the Alma watchdog.
At Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) she and Sue Fortin-Smith – a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee – appeared in separate deputations to council regarding what they believe are shortcomings in reports related to the development of the Moore Street property.
Both assert they are pro-development “as long as it is appropriate development.”
At site planning control meetings in November and December of last year, both raised concerns and questioned the methodology of the shadow impact and traffic impact studies, the arborist report and the shortcomings of the urban design review undertaken by the Sierra Group of Companies for the proposed Alma property development.
The Sierra Group is the consultant for Loewith’s firm, Patriot Properties.
Fortin-Smith referred to the latter as “an afterthought” and an “armchair review,” based on the fact the author did not even visit the development site to document such factors as shadowing, obstructed views and loss of privacy.
Following the December meeting, the site plan control committee passed a resolution recommending city council considers the Patriot Properties’ application for final approval.
On Jan. 21, city council voted to receive the report from the site plan control committee as information with Coun. Steve Peters the lone voice of opposition.
In her deputation to council this week, Doty questioned why proposed access to the development from Wellington Street, east of the London & Port Stanley Railway tracks, is no longer included in the plans.
“It would take pressure off Moore and McIntyre streets which were never designed or intended to accommodate the proposed amount of traffic.”
“The neighbourhood residents of Moore/McIntyre streets and along Ross Street are relying on you (council) to provide the best case scenario possible.”
Doty continued the two streets “currently support the need for resident street parking, overnight parking and guest parking by often reducing the traffic flow to one way.”
In fact, noted Doty, Moore Street was not even included in the traffic impact study.
To control vehicle flow, the Moore/McIntyre intersection will be governed by an all-way stop, which will “impact the four residential driveways located in very close proximity” to the intersection.
Doty closed her deputation with, “the neighbourhood residents of Moore/McIntyre streets and along Ross Street are relying on you (council) to provide the best case scenario possible.”
Fortin-Smith reminded members of council “you bear responsibility for the health, well-being, and quality of life of all city residents.
“Are you going to consider the impact of this planned intervention on the adjacent neighbourhood and its residents?
“Will these vulnerable neighbourhood residents become the sacrificial lambs to push the development through?”
Fortin-Smith was most impassioned when noting 45 trees – some planted by the girls of Alma – will be destroyed to make way for the development.
“Given that the city now has a tree bylaw to protect our trees and which forces residents to obtain permits at a cost to remove even a tree branch, how can the members of city council justify this action?”
No work can proceed on the proposed residential development until 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” is rescinded.
Last September, city council unanimously endorsed a motion to initiate that process with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) – 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.
City manager Wendell Graves advised council the city “has spent weeks working on a heritage easement agreement with the developer,” and that document will come before council before it goes before the LPAT. That is scheduled to take place during council’s reference committee meeting 6 p.m., Tuesday (Feb. 19).
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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