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Hearing date looms for proposed six-storey apartment building

Controversial development plan for 16 Ormond St. S. will be heard at Ontario Land Tribunal on July 5—but City of Thorold's position still not clear

What position will the city take at the upcoming Ontario Land Tribunal hearing on the proposed development at 16 Ormond Street South? With a July 5 hearing date fast approaching, some local residents are worried that the city won’t support their fight against the six-storey apartment project.

As ThoroldToday first reported, developer Shane Webber is proposing a 40-unit apartment complex at 16 Ormond St S., but some of the surrounding residents feel the project does not fit their neighbourhood.

The proposal appeared before the Thorold Committee of Adjustment in March, where a decision was deferred because committee members felt they didn’t have enough information—particularly pertaining to parking in the area.

In response, the developer filed an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Thorold City Council has instructed City Hall to hire a lawyer and planner to represent the municipality during the hearing, but a lot remains unclear.

“Are they going to be for or against some of these variance requests?” wonders Ormond Street resident Tim O’Hare, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “It’s going to matter to me whether or not I get on board with the city, or are we going at it alone and defending our case without the city’s support?”

“It was great to have council members all vote in favour of doing this and they are behind us, there is no doubt about it,” O’Hare continues. “If they were the ones who were coming to the OLT it would be a whole different story, but it’s not.”

The crux of the issue, according to O’Hare, is that in its original report the Thorold planning department approved four of the five variance requests, only vetoing the reduced step back of the building.

Three months have passed since then and the Thorold planning department has lost all of its employees, making O’Hare wonder if the original planning report is still the current position of the city.

O’Hare points out that among the variances originally approved is the removal of the building’s loading zone.

“No loading space is crazy,” he says. “You’re going to have this many apartments, no loading space and park across the street, as the city planner at the time suggested, and carry your things across the busy Ormond Street?”

O’Hare has tried repeatedly to get in touch with the city to get some clarity on what is going to happen at the July 5 hearing, but he has still not heard back.

“The time frame is incredibly short,” O’Hare says. “Even though it seems like we have a little bit of time, all the documents have to be submitted much earlier otherwise they can’t be presented at the case. I just need to know which direction the legal counsel and city planners are going to take.“

The one good thing that has come out of the ordeal is that O’Hare is much closer to his neighbours. A petition going around the neighbourhood has already garnered more than 150 signatures against the development.

“It is surprisingly remarkably thrilling to meet people and talk to them and discuss it,” he says. “Ninety percent of the people support that this design is not suitable for the lot. Along with it obviously comes the overflow of parking. That’s why the downtown businesses are on our side. If we want a viable, flourishing downtown we need to ensure that parking is not an issue and it doesn’t become worse.”

When reached for comment, the office of the city's Chief Administrative Officer, Manoj Dilwaria, released the following statement: “City staff are working with external legal counsel on this matter. At this time, we are unable to share anything further.”