Helen Bates, whose home backs on to the Pelham Arena site, speaks to Council. VOICE PHOTO

Accursi recuses himself as wife’s project debated

BY VOICE STAFF

Town Council held a public meeting last Monday night to discuss two proposed developments in Fonthill—one on the site of the current Pelham Arena, the other on a parcel of land on Port Robinson road owned by the wife of Councillor Gary Accursi.

The Pelham Arena land is not yet for sale, though last spring the Town engaged the Planning Partnership, an urban design firm from Toronto, to create development guidelines for the area. An online survey was created for residents to provide their input directly, though all five of the options presented involved developing the site in some way.

At a council meeting in October, Director of Planning Barb Wiens acknowledged that many in attendance at a public meeting in September were upset by this limitation, but said, “The Terms of Reference for this plan were that there was a need to explore development alternatives—that’s what Council had asked be done.”

Last Monday, in front of some 25 residents, Town planner Shannon Larocque presented to council the “preferred plan” for the site, created by the Planning Partnership. The plan for the site, which is about 8.5 acres, will see 4.8 of those acres—where the arena and parking lot are currently—developed with 13 single-detached dwellings, and 28 townhouses. The other 3.49 acres, currently occupied by soccer fields and paddle tennis courts, will remain as open space.

The plan also includes retaining a wooded area at the back of the site, with a trail running alongside it.

“The existing zoning is Public, and the proposed zoning change is to Residential 2,” said Larocque.

Residents Jodi and Winston Krah provided written comment to the Town noting their continued objections to the development of the land.

“We do not feel converting this land to the proposed use is in the best interest of our community and certainly not our neighbourhood,” they wrote.

“Why does the Town insist on expanding subdivision space? Do more subdivisions equal a better Town? No, unequivocally no, and making this change doesn’t address future green space or cultural needs of our neighbourhood or Fonthill in general. We do not want to see more open space designations converted to more housing spaces.”

The Krahs suggested that the area be made into a cultural facility—a large park, with a garden, a jogging track, or a fish pond, or the presence of a farmers’ market.

“Have you driven down Highway 20 lately? Despite road widening it feels like we are in a big city with traffic congestion. We avoid travelling home through Town because of the traffic lights and traffic snarls.”

Other residents voiced similar objections to the development, though most limited their concerns to specific aspects of the plan.

Helen Bates, who lives on Welland Road and with property backing on to the site, asked about the proposed trail, questioning why it was to be located as planned.

Wiens said that the plan tried to connect the intended trail to the Steve Bauer Trail as closely as possible, and that the NPCA had wanted the walkway located as far away from a nearby water channel.

At the mention of water, Bates asked if there would be drainage.

“The water’s up to my knees already,” she said.

“Drainage will definitely be a consideration,” said Wiens.

“It’ll have to be,” said Bates, who also requested that a fence be put up between her property and the proposed trail.

“You’ll hear from me later,” she said, before returning to her seat.

Rosemary Dougan, who lives on Haist Street and whose property backs on to the current tennis and basketball courts, asked about drainage as well and was assured that it would be looked at as the planning process moves ahead.

Dougan also made mention of the basketball and tennis courts behind her.

“[They get] used, and I know because the balls are bouncing at 12:30 in the morning,” she said. “In the preferred plan, that’s all gone now? Your basketball and tennis areas are non-existent.”

When it was council’s turn to provide input, Councillor Gary Accursi pointed Dougan towards a top corner of the plan, to the west of the soccer fields, which he said has been earmarked for a multi-use court or a splash-pad.

Accursi said that most of the other issues raised by residents had to do with “engineering aspects” of the plan, and said that the plan is not at that stage yet.

“When this property gets developed, the developer will go through strenuous studies for drainage and the management of stormwater,” said Accursi. “Down the road, this will be taking place, and staff will ensure that all adjoining properties will be looked after.”

After discussion of the Pelham Arena site ended, the Port Robinson Road property owned by Accursi’s wife came up for discussion. Accursi declared a conflict of interest and left the room. Almost all of the residents left too.

Town Planner Curtis Thompson presented the proposed zoning change for the Accursi property.

“It’s currently vacant and zoned agricultural,” said Thompson, explaining that the proposed development needs the zoning on the property to be changed. Thompson said that the land is within a settlement area, and that the greenbelt plan is not in effect.

“It’s been designated East Fonthill medium density residential in the secondary plan,” said Thompson.

William Heikoop, of Upper Canada Consultants, speaking on behalf of Accursi, outlined the plan for the site. The proposed development is for a three-story, 12-unit apartment building, with each apartment coming in at about 1200 square feet. The plan has 13 parking spaces for the site, and one handicapped accessible spot.

Councillor Jim Lane asked about the 13 parking spots, saying that this figure seemed low for a building with 12 units. Barb Wiens said that the requirement for such a building works out to one and half spaces per unit.

“Then there’s not enough here,” said Lane.

“This would require the matter to be addressed in the zoning by-law,” said Wiens.

Heikoop explained that the plan was to draw up lease agreements with future tenants that include an acknowledgement of the limited parking, as well as a method of arranging for the use of any visitor parking. He said also that other empty space on the site had not been put towards parking because of the need to use it for snow storage.

Only four people remained in the public gallery for this discussion, and just one spoke. The man, speaking on behalf of his friend who owns land adjacent to Accursi’s, asked about the laneway behind the building that will provide access to driveway.

“Is that accessible road guaranteed? Or will it stop there and people will have to back out,” asked the man.

Wiens said that there is nothing definite at this point, though if land farther along it develops, then the road would be extended.

“If it was extended all the way over, I don’t think [we’d] object at all,” said the man, saying that his friend could end up also developing an apartment building on his land.

“It’s good to see Fonthill building up to two stories and three stories,” said the man. “Maybe in ten years it’ll get up to four stories.”