Tied vote means a no for development on site of former Optimist Club
A proposed townhome development outside of downtown Guelph has been narrowly defeated.
Thanks to a tied 6-6 vote, the motion to approve a 23-townhouse development at 89 Beechwood Ave. from Granite Homes has been turned down by council.
Among the concerns cited by councillors that voted against the proposal were the size of the project versus the surrounding neighbourhood and access to Howitt Park.
These echo the concerns raised by the Beechwood-Chadwick-Hearn Neighbourhood Association, which was formed in response to the proposal, which first came to city council last year as a 34-townhouse development.
In May, that was downsized to the current 23 units.
Sheila Hollidge, speaking on behalf of the association, said the group submitted comments and suggested revisions to the project when Granite downsized its project in May, but those were not taken into consideration.
“It gives the false baseline that they acted based on citizen concerns,” Hollidge said, referring to Granite’s downsizing of the project.
Five members from the neighbourhood association reiterated many of the same concerns it raised at the initial public meeting in September 2017 and again with the Mercury Tribune when the downsized project was first submitted to the city.
The group showed video footage of how crowded Beechwood can get when there is an event at Ismailia Centre on the road, saying things would only get worse should the townhouse project be approved.
Another member of the group, Tom Wood, laid out how the proposal does not fit in with the neighbourhood, given the density and spacing of the townhomes versus that of the single detached homes across the road.
“The proposed buildings remain out of sync with the neighbourhood,” he said.
Byron Cunningham, another member of the neighbourhood group, raised concerns about what the group sees as a potential loss of Howitt Park, which sits next to the former Optimist Club, as a piece of the community, saying it would instead become a park for the condo, rather than the neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood group was not the only one expressing concern with issues surrounding Howitt, with Coun. June Hofland saying she had concerns about the size of the project and its standing immediately next to the park.
“It feels to me like we’re going to lose that playground and that green space with the mass of the building,” she said.
Representatives from Granite Homes said access to the park would not change.
Cunningham said that instead of Granite Homes giving cash in lieu as part of its parkland dedication for the development, it should instead have given some of the land back to the city. More specifically, the group says there should be more frontage of the park on to Beechwood, making it more visible from the road and the houses on the other side.
While Granite is giving the city cash in lieu, according to the report from staff to council, the developer will also be dedicating the portion of the city trail that runs through the southerly end of the property.
Mayor Cam Guthrie, who had voted in favour of the proposal, said that while he thought the original 34-townhouse development was too big, the downsized one was a fair compromise.
“It’s at the line, but it does seem to fit for me,” he said.
“I feel like it would be very good when it’s done — new families and new neighbours across the street when it’s there.”