The Parliament Oak proposal defies common sense
The proposed revised development for 325 King Street of 9 houses and a 71 unit condominium apartment building in the centre of the “Old Town” is not an appropriate use of this site. The site consists of an entire town block surrounded on all 4 sides by low density detached 1 & 2 storey houses of varying architectural styles. The application is to amend the Official Plan and rezone this site to medium density to allow for detached and semi-detached housing and a massive apartment building.
Although residential use for this site is appropriate it is the building form, style, density and sheer scale of the proposal that is overbearing and detrimental to the neighbourhood and the entire town. Low density housing in a form consistent with the surrounding neighbourhood and nearby properties is appropriate and supported in both Official Plans.
An apartment building over 40’ high and almost 360’ long with 71 apartments is not consistent with either Official Plans or the character of the Old Town. This building form is isolationist and destructive to the neighbourhood and the pedestrian friendly personality of the old town. It does not respond to the existing context and is inconsistent with the urban fabric, shape and form of not only the immediate streetscape but that of the entire town. Apartment buildings by their definition discourage interaction and dialogue with the street and shut out local residents. This town is built around people and an inviting, pedestrian and socially friendly environment that responds to human scale and promotes an engaged community. The apartment building form disassociates people from the street and isolates an entire population within the town.
“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” mused Winston Churchill in 1943. If we allow the apartment building form to be inserted into the middle of a low density neighbourhood in the centre of town it will indeed alter the human scale and attractive visual complexity of the streetscape forever. It will not be the last one. Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. This catastrophic intervention defies common sense.
The developer cites intensification as a justification for this proposal. Reportedly the town has met the required target to 2052 providing housing for 16,000 people in Glendale. The 2017 Official Plan, 4.2 stipulates locations for intensification on schedule I-1 and I-2. If intensification was required it is not supported or identified at this location. Further section 4.4 Intensification Objectives, a) “direct the majority of intensification to intensification areas”, and e) “…where development will not impact…the residential character of the property or the surrounding area”.
Also the 2019 New Official Plan section:
126.96.36.199 – “The objectives of the intensification policies of this Plan are to:”
a) – Support the Built-up Areas by strategically directing most intensification to Intensification Areas identified on Schedule B7”.
F) – Ensure that intensification and infilling are consistent with the character of the surrounding neighbourhood.
2017 OP - Section 15.3.1 (2) – Open Space And Community Facilities – “All lands designated open space and community facilities……… may be redeveloped for Low Density Residential
The proposed net density as applied to the land area of 22units/acre is vastly greater than that allowed in medium density of 12 units/acre, and a whopping 266% greater than that allowed in the surrounding low density areas of 6 units/acre. Upon completion the land occupied by the houses, Part 2, will be severed from the apartment building property, Part 1. In the developer’s submission they attribute 2.63 acres to Part 1. This equates to a density of 27 units per acre for the apartment building upon completion. This is based upon the recently revised application of 71 apartment units.
If intensification at this location was supported, (which it is not), paragraph 4.4. k) stipulates “a maximum density of 12units/acre”. At 27 units / acre, the apartment building will have a land density 350% greater than the immediately surrounding adjacent ER (Existing Residential) zone.
OP 2017 9.2.7 – “To encourage infill residential development of vacant or underutilized parcels of land in residential areas where such development will be compatible with existing uses”.
Section 9.4.1.d) (ii) f) – “housing projects should be sensitive to the height, scale and architectural design of buildings in the surrounding neighborhood”.
Section 9.4. (4) – Residential Density, - “Special care will be taken in the Old Town of Niagara and Established Residential designations to maintain the low-density character……. demonstrating that there will be minimal impact on surrounding neighbourhoods and development”.
The 2019 New Official Plan:
4.5.3 - Policies
188.8.131.52 – “In considering an application for development approval on lands in the Established Residential and Residential designations, or on properties not currently zoned for high density residential development, Council shall ensure infill and intensification development and redevelopment respects and reflects the existing pattern and character of adjacent development, by adhering to the development criteria outlined below”:
the lot frontage(s) and lot area(s) of the proposed new lot(s) shall be consistent with the sizes of existing lots on both sides of the street on which the property is located;
the proposed new building(s) shall have heights, massing and scale appropriate for the site and generally consistent with that permitted by the zoning for adjacent properties and properties on the same street;
the orientation and sizing of new lots shall not have a negative impact on significant public views and vistas that help define a residential neighbourhood;
4.7.2 - Compatibility
184.108.40.206 – “Intensification and/or redevelopment should be compatible with the property and the surrounding neighbourhood, having regard to:”
Existing and/or planned densities;
Lot frontages, area and depth;
h) The existing and/or planned height and massing of buildings.
4.7.3 - Conflicts between Built Form and Intensification
220.127.116.11. In circumstances where a proposed development satisfies the Town’s intensification target but does not support the compatibility policies of the Plan, the compatibility policies shall prevail.
4.8 Community Design
18.104.22.168 – “Community Design Guidelines are used to integrate new development into the fabric of the community and to preserve its character and enhance those attributes that are important to residents and visitors.”
22.214.171.124 – “In addition to meeting other design related policies of this Plan, the following design guidelines apply to intensification proposals in Virgil and Old Town……”
Height, mass and scale of new development will fit the context within which it is located;
126.96.36.199 – “Generally, building heights in Old Town, St. Davids, and Queenston do not exceed ten (10) metres. This lowrise character will be maintained, and the implementing zoning bylaw will limit building height accordingly.”
4.10.3 – Residential Areas, Policies
188.8.131.52 – “Any construction of additions or new structures within residential areas will complement existing adjacent development in terms of its scale, character, height, design and mass.”
184.108.40.206 – “The design and location considerations for multiple unit residential buildings shall include provisions of the following:”
The height, mass, scale and arrangement of buildings and structures will achieve a harmonious design and integrate with the surrounding area and not negatively impact on lower density residential uses or on cultural heritage resources
Traffic to and from the location will not be directed towards local streets and the site should be within easy convenient access of a collector or arterial roadway.
4.10.4 Established Residential Designation
a) The Established Residential areas represent older, stable neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods can include cultural heritage resources that must be conserved. The existing character of the Established Residential areas shall be maintained.
This location is not identified in the Official Plans or suitable for intensification. A building of this scale will impact negatively on the low density and low rise scale of this neighbourhood and the entire town. Therefore a low density residential use is appropriate. Any infill project must be sensitive to the height, scale and architectural design of the surrounding neighbourhood and fit the context within which it is located. It must integrate with the surrounding area and not negatively impact the lower density adjacent properties.
The developer’s Justification Report references compatibility with medium density. Not only is medium density not supported within the Official Plans for this site, but the density of the proposal is substantially greater than that of medium density.
With parking for 149 cars the traffic should exit onto King Street not local streets. This extreme increase in traffic is not conducive to this quiet, low density pedestrian friendly neighbourhood.
It is worth noting that one half of this property is within the Heritage Conservation District Expansion Study Area. This proposal is not consistent with the heritage of the Old Town.
The application is misleading in that it states the height of the apartment building is 11 meters. The Zoning By-Law of the town states that:
BUILDING HEIGHT when used in reference to a building or structure means the vertical distance measured from the average finished grade around the structure to the peak.
FINISHED GRADE means, when used in reference to a building or structure, the average elevation of the finished surface of the ground measured from a point 0.6 m (2 ft) out from the base of an exterior wall, support of a building or structure, but exclusive of any artificial embankment.
The applicant is applying to amend this By-Law definition to:
“Building Height means the vertical distance measured from the finished floor elevation of
the existing structure fronting King St. (geodetic elevation 89.45m) to the highest point of
the surface of the flat roof and shall not include mechanical penthouses.”
Based upon the applicant’s own survey and architectural drawings the official height of the building ranges from 41’ to 44’ above grade. This is equivalent to the height of a four storey building. As noted above the OP notes 10m or 33’ as the required maximum height in the Old Town.
The lots of the planned houses are substantially smaller and inconsistent with the sizes of existing lots on opposite sides of the streets. They are not within the existing zoning requirements of the surrounding properties.
This proposal compared to the ER zoning requirements of the surrounding properties:
Front Yard Setback 7.5m 3.0m
Interior Side Yard 1.22m 2.5m
Exterior Side Yard 4.5m 3.0m
Lot Coverage 33% 43%
The proposed lots widths are predominately 12m-16m, the surrounding area lots are 15m – 90m and larger. They are not “consistent with the variety of lot frontages in the neighbourhood”, and they do not “complement the lot frontages of the dwellings opposite”, as stated in the developer’s Justification Report.
The developer’s application is misleading in the stated surrounding land uses. It references points of the compass to indicate the commons and memorial park as being opposite to two sides of the site. This is not correct. This property is surrounded on all four sides by streets containing low density detached 1 & 2 storey dwellings, and zoned ER.
As submitted by the developer’s architect, shown below are examples of his “vision” of the architecture of the apartment building. At over 40’ high and over 350’ long this hardly “compliments ……. the scale of the neighbouring dwellings”, or “provide appropriately scaled residential development”. The developer states “the proposal considers the context of the existing neighbourhood and visual impact of the proposed development”. No it does not.
The offensive visual impact of a colossal apartment building of this scale and architecture cannot be overstated. It will be devastating to the entire community.
Unfortunately the “virtual meeting process” limits the voices of many citizens who would normally rise up against this proposal at a live event.
The Old Town deserves responsible and respectful development, not a cash grab at the Towns expense. Niagara On The Lake is one of the few truly historic towns in Canada. Is this “vision” appropriate for the centre of such a treasure? The councilors of the Town of Niagara On The Lake have two Official Plans and regional and provincial policies to use to reject this application in its entirety.
Alan Gordon POST