In the end, any hope of including “a faithful replication of the north facade of the former Alma College building” in a proposed redevelopment of the Moore Street property came down to a conference phone call.
In March of this year, city council approved a motion for staff to make an application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment on the site of the former school for girls includes such replication.
The LPAT hearing was held Nov. 19 via a telephone conference call involving John Sanders, legal counsel for the City of St. Thomas and Joel Farber, representing Patriot Properties.
Richard Makuch, LPAT vice-chairman presided over the conference call and handed down his decision in favour of rescinding the 2008 OMB order two weeks later on Dec. 3.
The rescind order is conditional upon a heritage easement being registered on title to the Moore Street property and removes the last major hurdle to a proposed three-tower residential development to be undertaken by Patriot Properties.
The project will occupy approximately seven of the 11 acres which housed the college that officially opened in 1881.
For those opposed to the removal of the OMB order – like Dawn Doty who lives across the street from the Alma property – it’s an emotional and frustrating defeat which leaves her with the distinct impression the decision was preordained.
“It’s disappointing,” sighed Doty in a phone conversation Tuesday (Dec. 17).
“And frustrating,” added Doty, who we have long referred to as the Alma College watchdog.
Frustrating in that she and Sue Fortin-Smith, a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee, were not permitted to make submissions to the tribunal.
Disconcerting in that Doty – along with several others including St. Thomas lawyer Douglas Gunn, Lara Leitch of the Alma College International Alumnae Association and Paul Corriveau – were granted participant status at the original 2008 OMB hearing.
And confusing for Doty in that, although she was denied status last month, she did receive a copy of the LPAT decision.
As noted in the tribunal decision, “It is clear based on the materials before the tribunal on this motion that the terms of the 2008 OMB orders relate to a demolition permit application that was never acted on. The materials before the tribunal show that the building and the site had deteriorated over 20 years since the Alma College school substantially ceased operations in or around 1988.
“The City and Patriot argue that the proposed new development will bring new life to the property in a manner that appropriately responds to the heritage elements of the property.”
The tribunal concluded, “given the facts set out above, that the replication
requirements arising from the 2008 OMB orders relating to the prior demolition
applications are redundant and no longer appropriate to permit the development
The heritage easement agreement replacing the OMB order includes existing heritage attributes which will be rehabilitated, new commemorative elements which will be introduced to the site, performance guarantees and overall project
scheduling/timelines, according to city manager Wendell Graves.
The built heritage elements are the Moore Street entrance gateway and pillars along with the amphitheatre.
As per the agreement, replacement or changes to either of these requires prior approval of the city.
As outlined in the heritage easement agreement, the commemorative features to be installed by Patriot Properties are as follows:
– a permanent outline in paving materials delineating the former footprint of the main Alma College building;
– a permanent spire sculpture representing a portion of the former central tower above the front entrance of the main Alma College building;
– a garden commemorating the original landscaped forecourt of Alma College, including a central flower bed in its original ellipse shape; four interpretative panels, other signage, and historical plaques conveying information about the history of the site at various locations around the property.
Although the LPAT decision came down two weeks ago, it has not formally been discussed at a council meeting.
“We did mention to council, I think in open session, that we had received a decision, but that’s as far as it went,” advised Graves.
As Graves explained to members of council earlier this year, pending LPAT and before the residential development proceeds, a series of sequential steps must be undertaken.
The holding provisions of the city’s official plan and zoning would be lifted.
Council would then approve the site plan and confirm Community Improvement Plan funding.
The heritage easement agreement and the site development agreement would be executed.
Speaking with Graves in February of this year he indicated, to the best of his knowledge, all costs associated with the heritage easement agreement will be recoverable from the developer.
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Contained in the LPAT decision was a reference to 3 seven storey buildings, instead of the ones originally proposed which included only one seven storey structure, and 2 lower in height. Was this a mere slip of the Tribunal or is something else going on hereÉ