Should the city keep expanding its newer residential subdivisions or add commercial properties—serving the residents that are already there?
As ThoroldToday has previously reported, local residents in some of Thorold’s subdivisions, such as Confederation Heights and Thorold South, believe their neighbourhoods aren’t seeing enough economic growth.
That issue was brought forward again at Tuesday night’s city council meeting during a discussion on the proposed development on the corner of Confederation Avenue and Collier Road South. Developers are looking to rezone the area in order to build a condominium complex.
Andrea Sinclair from MHBC Planning, the firm that has been taking care of Thorold’s planning decisions since the Thorold Planning Department lost all its employees, defended the proposed zoning changes.
“It was originally worded that commercial uses would be permitted,” Sinclair told council members. “That’s been strengthened and now it’s a residential permission only as part of a mixed-use building where commercial has to be on the ground floor, to ensure there remains a commercial element. ”
Sinclair further explained that she believes that the site would struggle as an exclusively commercial lot because cars aren't allowed to turn onto the site from Collier Road.
“For most commercial corner lots, having access to both roads is really important,” explained Sinclair. “It's fair to say that this site would largely struggle as a stand-alone commercial site, which is why it’s moving forward with our recommendation that the western portion be developed as residential and the eastern portion will be developed as mixed use.”
Many councillors were not on board with the recommendation from MHBC Planning.
“I believe we need to maintain commercial zoning and commercial space in the city for future use,” said Councillor Anthony Longo. “The last thing in my opinion we need is more high-density residential. This may be one of our worst neighbourhoods if this goes ahead.”
Mayor Terry Ugulini, who has been largely silent on development issues in Thorold, spoke against the zoning changes as well.
“The argument that the commercial component is a tough sell is the opposite,” he told fellow council members. “We have a shortage of commercial space in the city of Thorold. I believe that there is a real requirement for a commercial component.”
Another hot-button issue is whether or not the developer should be exempt from a two-year moratorium on more zoning variances in the future.
“So they’re going to be asking for more stuff?” asked Councillor John Kenny, incredulously.
Sinclair explained that although there is no plan at this time to submit more variances, the exemption would make it easier if more zoning changes need to happen as the project moves along.
Councillor Victoria Wilson said that she felt torn on the issue.
“It’s been empty and we’ve been looking for commercial entities for many, many years,” she said. “Since I’ve been in Thorold, what I’ve heard is people hoping that some type of big box store be there. This might be our best option to get commercial there. It might be on a smaller scale but we could have dental offices, things of that nature. I think this is the best move for us so I’m going to support this."
In the end, Councillor Ken Sentance proposed that the issue be referred back to staff to reevaluate the commercial component of the site. The matter is to go before city council again at a later date.