Guelph councillors couldn’t be blamed for having a case of déjà vu Tuesday evening.
During a special meeting of council, developer Rykur Holdings put forward its application for an amendment to the city’s official plan in order to build a five-storey residential building at 75 Dublin St. N.
The application was nearly identical to that put forward two years ago, and is now the subject of an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The board has not yet made a decision on that file.
What’s different this time around is that it is Rykur applying for the amendment to the city’s official plan. Last time, it was a city-initiated process.
“There is new information for this council, and I think it’s essential new information,” Scott Snider, a lawyer for Rykur, argued to councillors.
“This is a fresh application that this council must make a decision on as a fresh application, not withstanding the fact that there’s many similarities between it and the former one.”
Among the new developments since the original application is the completion of a shadow analysis for the project.
The Upper Grand District School Board, which has voiced opposition to the development as it stands, has argued that the shadows cast by the building would negatively impact students at the neighbouring Central Public School.
Astrid Clos, a planning consultant for Rykur on the 75 Dublin file, said the developer-commissioned shadow analysis determined that the proposed building would not have an adverse effect on Central students.
As well, Clos cited a report by the school board that argued that access to shade would be beneficial to students, protecting them from sun-related ailments such as skin cancer and eye problems — a comment met by scattered laughter among the audience in council chambers.
Snider also argued that, should council vote against the proposal when it comes up for a final decision — Tuesday’s meeting was to simply receive the application — then the city is not serious about affordable housing. Rykur has proposed that 20 of the building’s 35 units would be affordable units.
Alan Heisey, a lawyer for the Upper Grand District School Board, called the issue of affordable housing a red herring.
“Nothing that has been said tonight is new,” he said.
“The issue is the impact of the fifth storey. It doesn’t have more or less impact because of who lives inside the building.”
Heisey also argued that the city should wait on a decision from the OMB before moving ahead with the new proposal. That option was discussed behind closed doors between council and Darrell Mast, a lawyer for the city.
Further muddying the waters on the proposal was an email sent by Tom Lammer, the developer behind Rykur, to councillors and residents near the project ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, saying he would consider a land swap for the Dublin Street property, arguing the land be city-owned and “surplus to its needs that is located within the Downtown Secondary Plan area, is zoned to permit a 5-storey apartment building, is not contaminated and is permit ready.”
However, according to Scott Stewart, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer, such a property does not exist in the city’s portfolio.
Tuesday’s meeting saw a number of residents come out to voice their opposition to the proposed five-storey building for 75 Dublin. One thing many said replace the former tennis courts is a park.
“By far, green space is the absolute best thing that could happen to 75 Dublin,” said resident Catherine Killen.
“Please, please, please take up Mr. Lammer on his offer to discuss possible land swaps and other creative solutions and make 75 Dublin a park.”
Another delegate, Glynis Logue, argued that turning the property into a park would be a big benefit to the children at the neighbouring school.
“There are 46 public and Catholic schools operating in Guelph. There’s only one without green space — it’s Central Public School,” she said.
“Right now, they would have to go to Sunny Acres or down to the river, and it’s simply not practical.”
Council voted 11-1 to receive the application, and asked staff to look further into the issues of a land swap and the city’s process for park requisition.
The lone councillor to vote against receiving the application, Mike Salisbury, said the developer came to city hall “to roll the dice with a gun in their hand,” and that the application was being made solely so that it could be appealed to the OMB.