Concerns about infrastructure put damper on plans
The Town of Pelham’s Committee of Adjustment voted last Tuesday to defer a decision regarding plans for a three-story hotel and commercial space on the former Royal Bank site at the corner of Canboro Road and Maple Street in Fenwick.
The committee asked that Town staff provide further details about sewage capacity and potential parking solutions for the project, setting local developer Mark Young’s plans back. That appeared to sit well with the full public gallery in attendance, most of whom came to raise concerns about the parking issue.
Young’s vision for adequate parking relied heavily on the public lot on the east side of Maple, just north of the corner site. Virtually no one believed that this was sufficient, citing the lot’s frequent at-capacity status even before a hotel is built.
“I go by there all the time, and if it’s not full, its three-quarters full,” nearby resident Mark Bay told the committee. “I wish your business well, I’m not wishing it any demise whatsoever. But if it does well, it’s going to make that problem worse.”
Foss Road resident Jim Jeffs agreed, recalling that he had ten parking spaces at his former Pelham Street dental practice in Fonthill, which he said were usually filled.
“[The hotel parking plan] seems to be going backwards for me,” Jeffs said.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the night before, Town Council approved a motion directing staff to investigate the potential acquisition of real estate in downtown Fenwick for additional parking.
Despite the objections and subsequent deferment however, Young’s original plan appears to be in compliance with existing bylaws. As committee chair Don Cook pointed out, under the bylaw, a “hotel” requires only one parking space for every three hotel rooms, while a “motel” mandates a spot for every room.
Town Planner Curtis Thompson concurred, saying that the former Royal Bank branch required 12 parking stalls, while the new proposal would only require 10 for eight hotel units.
For good measure, Thompson also reminded the committee that Pelham continues to operate on severely outdated zoning bylaws.
“It’s worth noting that the last zoning bylaw was consolidated in 1987,” he said, echoing a frequent lament of Town CAO David Cribbs.
While most of the resident concerns centered around the parking matter, some of the objections submitted via correspondence included issues with the new building’s height, and whether Fenwick even needs a hotel in an era where accommodation sharing is eating into the hospitality industry.
Young, who has spent most of his life in Pelham, said he believes in his business plan.
“A lot of care has really been taken in respect to the town,” he said. “What this hotel does, is stops people from having an Airbnb in Cherry Ridge.”
Young also pushed back at concerns from the Niagara Catholic District School Board that the frontage of the new building would narrow the sidewalk, creating a danger for schoolchildren. Yet while he said the footprint of his planned building would fit in the existing bank footprint, the overall plan includes a site variance to increase the lot coverage to 57 percent from its current 40. He explained that would be to accommodate an elevator on the north end of the new structure—i.e., away from the sidewalk along Canboro Road.
Young’s representative, Mark Shoalts, pointed out that the existing bank building is already non-compliant for accessibility, and would require a minor variance even if it were to be renovated.
The infrastructure concerns then turned to sewage, and whether a new building would overtax Fenwick’s existing wastewater system. Earlier in the same meeting, an application to subdivide a rural property ran into roadblocks over sewage pumping.
“I am appalled that this Town is approving residential applications … and everybody is saying we know we can’t get [sewage to the Welland treatment facility], but that’s okay,” committee member Bill Sheldon loudly interjected toward the end of the meeting.
“But what do we do with the remainder? This isn’t China. We don’t put it on our fields.”
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