Proposed apartment building on Pancake Lane sparks concern
Tempers flared last Thursday, February 20, at a meeting regarding a proposed plan to construct a four-story apartment building on Pancake Lane, in Fonthill. The proposed building would contain 40 units and be erected near an already existing apartment building, and the Glad Tidings Church of God, where the meeting took place.
According to the public notice given to residents of Pancake Lane, the meeting was organized by Dragutin Vuckovic, the president of Ashley Group of Companies, with architect Joe Milcic and agent David Nelson in attendance “to discuss the project and answer questions.” The developers are seeking to amend the zoning bylaw to allow the construction to proceed. The notice was directed to anyone who owned a home or business “located within 120 metres (400 feet) of the subject property.”
Some 16 locals arrived promptly at 7:30 PM to view displayed items, which included a computer-generated rendering of what the complex would look like, and detailed floor plans. A sign-in sheet was provided by Nelson so concerned residents could leave their email address for further updates.
While there was no planned presentation, the developers held an informal Q&A session.
“We hope that we can make the community happy,” said Vuckovick to open the session. His assertion was greeted with laughter from those present, after which he said, “Not everybody can be happy, but I’m here to build a nice building, and your community is going to be proud of me.”
Residents had many inquiries concerning height, population density, and traffic. The height of the building and its position would potentially block views of the church and trees. The increased population of the neighbourhood would worsen the traffic congestion of an already-busy street, asserted some, which many young children use to walk to their bus or to school.
“With the traffic, it’s a wonder somebody hasn’t been killed now,” said a resident.
“I’m not a traffic expert,” said Vuckovick. “I am not going to argue or defend traffic —there’s a traffic expert who can deal with that.”
Although Milcic explained that he designed the parking lot so that it wouldn’t face the street and visually it would not disrupt the scenery of Pancake Lane, there was no answer regarding how to actually manage the increased traffic.
Within minutes, the meeting escalated to swearing and raised voices, and Daniel Calgagno, the pastor of the church, stepped in to mediate and encourage more specific questions.
Susan Smyth, who identified herself as a “professional planner,” then asked who specifically had been retained to do a traffic study, to which there was no answer. She expressed further concerns which were echoed by many.
“The number of units is excessive given the size of the lot,” she said in regards to the proposed building. “How did you come to the unit number? It exceeds the maximum density requirement by 19. Your max is allowed 65 units per hectare, and you’re at 85. So how did you get to that?”
Once again, there was no clear or defined answer.
The mood of the Q&A session grew increasingly tense, since the developers’ responses did not seem to satisfy the many voiced concerns.
One resident said: “I’m not saying we don’t welcome progress, and you [shouldn’t be] building. I’m just saying it’s wrong for this lot on this street.”
There were also angry reactions to the proposed building cutting into the church parking lot, and the tone of the public notices. Resident Christopher Inman had several points.
“There’s been a lack of communication, because I spoke to a councillor, a Ward 3 councillor, and he was totally unaware of this meeting,” said Inman.
“That’s not the case, I did send him an email,” said Nelson.
Inman then held up the letter he had received from the developers.
“Like an eviction notice to my door, on Family Day. That’s very rude, on a holiday and right before dinner so thanks, whoever did that,” said Inman.
“You’re welcome,” replied Nelson, to which the audience erupted in surprised gasps.
Several residents said that they only heard of this meeting three days prior, despite notices allegedly being sent out since January. Although there were three purported notices, several residents had only received, or been aware of, one or two notices.
Edward Russell, resident and owner of Russell Associates Inc., then presented an exhibit showing renderings of the neighbourhood as it appeared today, versus what it would look like if the proposed apartment complex was approved. He also handed out sheets of rough calculations showing that if this and more apartments were to be approved, at least 611 new people and 341 additional cars would be introduced to the neighbourhoods of Pelham.
“We have a nice community here,” said Russell, “I’ve been here 55 years. I’d like it to stay that way as much as possible. We can’t stop all of this, but if we get together we can have some impact.”
Angry barbs continued to be traded back and forth, with many speakers talking over each other’s points. There were numerous attempts by members of the church and residents to mediate. As the meeting concluded, Nelson mentioned that he would complete the planning justification report and email those who had signed up for updates. Residents lingered to discuss the meeting, eventually trickling out slowly from the church in small groups.
Asked for comment, Russell shook his head.
“The meeting went nowhere, nothing’s accomplished. We have to defend this neighbourhood, as much as we can,” he said.
In contrast, when Vuckovic, the developer, was asked how he thought the meeting went, he replied, “Very well.”
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