Thorold city council was not amused to hear that the developer of the confederation heights townhouse blocks wants to increase its allowed lot coverage, sparking fears of more student housing and parking trouble in the already densely populated area.
It was on Tuesday night that council fired off a barrage of tough questions to the consultants of the developer Mountainview Homes, who sought approval from council to increase the lot coverage of 22 of its blocks in the Phase 8 Confederation Heights development from 45 to 55 percent. Council heard that the developer wants to add room for covered backyard patios, or tool sheds in the back of its buildings, and not inflate the sizes of the houses.
Council didn't buy it.
"It is more student housing, and no matter what concerns council has, at the end of the day, the developers will get their way," said Coun. Jim Handley.
While the city's planning staff has yet to issue their recommendation on how to proceed, Handley said that council has seen the same scenario repeat itself before, where the developer goes to an appeals tribunal, and wins.
"We lose all the time. I honestly do not know of any appeal that the City of Thorold has actually won. We try as councillors to make our area liveable for people to raise families, but we keep having this burden put on us that is student housing," Handley continued, pointing at projections suggesting a large number of students coming to town once Brock University and the local colleges can start operating fully again. Despite assurances from the consultants, other councillors were also sure where the lot increase would be heading eventually.
"Putting in more space, more rooms, more parking really doesn't make any sense to me," said Coun. Ken Sentance.
"There will be more people in there, and it will branch out to the bigger problems we have there with parking and everything that comes with it."
"Is this just to maximize profit?" asked Coun. Carmen DeRose.
"Ultimately, the housing industry is a profit business. The proposed dwellings are Mountainview's typical units that we build throughout the region. We are not targeting this area. This is standard stuff we build throughout Niagara," asserted UUC planner William Heikoop during the meeting, adding the increase would equate to 100 square feet, with no plans of additional bedrooms.
Speaking to ThoroldToday.Ca, Coun. Victoria Wilson said council is indeed frustrated over its limited power in stopping expansions that could potentially lead to more absent landlords and blocks dense with student houses.
"It is frustration. We haven't had much success in LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal)."
"We need to hire our own consultants because we can't use our own city staff who have already by then issued their report. And then we have to try and get a judge to decide in our favor."
While agreeing that more absent landlords and houses packed with student would pose a problem, she said she doesn't want all students to get a bad rep.
"There are amazing students, who are never causing any problems at all."
Staff will be returning to council at a later date with recommendations on what to do.