A proposed housing development on the old Parliament Oak school property has some nearby residents angry and ready to fight back against the developer – and one elderly couple feeling they are being driven out of their ancestral home.
Residents Gail and Ellwyn Campbell have lived in their home at 36 Centre St. for over 50 years. They were planning to spend the remainder of their lives there and pass the home on to their kids. But the proposed development is threatening to drive them out of their home, they say.
“Who approved this? It’s terrible,” Ellwyn said.
The development proposes to put a three-storey apartment building behind the school and to add 12 semi-detached homes as well, according to a media release from Montreal based developer Liberty Sites (3) Ltd.
“We don’t think we will be able to stand it. We are going to have to move and we thought we would die in this house,” Gail said.
The couple said the proposal means an end to their hope of handing down their home to their children after they die.
Gail and Ellwyn, 79 and 81, have lived their whole lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“My family goes back generations. My grandfather, my great-great grandfather. We’ve been kicking around here a long time,” Ellwyn said.
Their home is tranquil and that’s the way the couple like it.
“The dirt, the noise, the massive trucks coming and going – everything. The construction is going to take years. We’re old and I don’t think we could stand it,” Gail said.
The couple feel their neighbourhood has been betrayed by the town. There’s only four homes on their section of Centre Street and it could soon be home to an 80-plus unit apartment building and 12 semi-detached homes.
“How could they give it away? Why would the town let them do this?” Ellwyn said.
They added they don't understand why the town let itself get outbid for the property by the developer Liberty Sites (3) Ltd. when the school board sold it in 2018.
Other neighbours shared their frustration and disappointment.
“It’s just a greedy project. They paid no consideration to the surrounding neighbourhood – they don’t care,” Regent Street resident Dominic Trapasso said about the developer.
Trapasso, like other neighbours, was not against the property being turned into housing. It is the type of housing Liberty is proposing that has him angry.
“It would be nice to have homes there. But let's make it look like the rest of the area. We don’t need it to look like downtown Toronto.”
John Law, who has lived on Regent Street across from the school for 25 years, echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t have any problem with what they're doing other than the three-storey building,” Law said.
“It’s over the top and it doesn’t keep with the rest of the neighbourhood.”
Law emphasized that development on the property was inevitable, but the level of density was not.
“We have no option. They’re going to do something with the property. It’s better to do something we can live with,” he said.
As with Trapasso, Law felt the scope of the development was a symptom of developer greed.
“How much money do they feel they have to make?”
Law said he and his wife have no issue with the semi-detached homes and would prefer that Liberty remove the apartment building and added more houses.
“If they didn’t put the apartment building and instead put another six semi-detached homes, that’s a lot of money!” he said.
He also argued against comments that the noise of schoolchildren playing is the same as construction.
“It’s funny, some people say to me, ‘You know, the children made a lot of noise.’ Children’s noise is a very different thing,” he said.
Gage Street resident Connie Tintinalli was appalled by the density.
“It’s awful. Too much,” she said.
Tintinalli was also worried about the influx of traffic in the area.
“They’re going to have a driveway pointing into people’s houses. They’re going to turn Gage Street into a major thoroughfare.”
She stressed that residents would not go down without a fight.
“We’re not just going to sit back and let it happen,” Tintinalli said.
“We’re going to battle it as far as we can,” he said.
- Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report