KINGSVILLE — The developers of a new medical centre and two future six-storey apartment buildings have agreed to convey land to the town to allow a road connection from Main Street East to Woodycrest Avenue.
The conveyance is considered crucial to the town and its plans to acquire the Kingsville high school property after the new school opens in the fall of 2023. The town wants the high school site for affordable housing and will need access to Woodycrest to avoid more congestion on Main Street.
The conveyance was part of a site plan amendment that made minor changes to the development plan approved by council earlier this year. The two six-storey buildings will now have 58 units instead of 60. There will also be no underground parking. Instead, stand-alone garages will be built along the perimeter and act as buffers.
Developers Patty and Henry Van Minnen have partnered with Valente Development Corporation, which will build the two apartment buildings.
Company president Peter Valente said the buildings in the new plan approved by council Monday are slimmer and not as high because of the switch from peaked roofs to flat.
He said the two apartments are similar to buildings constructed by his company in small towns like Lasalle, Tecumseh and Lakeshore.
“I know there is a concern about height but we won’t get into that (here) but believe me when I tell you this is going to be a development that Kingsville can be proud of,” Valente said. He said one building will be for rent or lease while the units in the second will be for sale. The units will be geared primarily to seniors.
Valente noted many seniors are reluctant to live in retirement homes because of COVID-19.“I believe our timing is very good with the market conditions. (We’re) bringing a new style of ownership and rentals to Kingsville,” he said.
Valente also addressed the conveyance of land to the town.
“(Town planner Robert Brown) brought it to our attention the town’s desire to have an access point that is permanent so they can control and do the development of the high school,” he said. “They asked and we said no problem the land is yours.”
Despite the transfer of land to the town for road access it was clear some councillors are still chafing over the decision to allow six-storey structures. Coun. Laura Lucier said she was worried the approval would make it difficult to turn down developments of similar size.
“I’m very concerned it’s precedent setting and future development will automatically be allowed up to six storeys once this goes ahead,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Gord Queen had similar concerns but thanked the developers for the road access.
“I think we all realize that the six storeys was approved by a prior council. Our staff has reminded us that once you grant them that you can’t take it away.”
Queen said future developers may think the Main Street East apartments are precedent setting, but will be in for a surprise if they propose a development similar in size.
“(For) any developer to think, oh, I might get it next time when this council gathered here today has made it repeatedly known that three storeys is the maximum … and to expect six storeys for a future application, don’t expect it because I for one won’t support it.”
Brown, the planning director, said council is not bound by precedent and can approve future development on a case-by-case basis. But he said multistorey buildings tend to be located near downtown cores.
“You’re going to see a push … for more density along the main corridors. That’s typically where you find them in most municipalities, understanding that Kingsville is not most municipalities but that is where you are going to find the push because it helps support the underlying goals of providing a variety of housing, providing walkability, providing access to services without that absolute need for an automobile.”
Valente said he is budgeting 60 days to acquire building permits and another 15 to 16 months to build the apartments.
Coun. Larry Patterson said buyers and renters will be lining up for the new units.
“You know what, we get so many negative comments but we also get good comments so sometimes we need to break that ice and say yes I’ve received positive comments,” he said.“I’ve had people call me and ask when is this going to be built? How soon can I get in?”
Coun. Tom Neufeld, a member of the council which voted in favour of the six-storey apartments, defended the decision.
“From my perspective, the decision of the day was to provide more housing for Kingsville and it was to create walkability and a bikeable community ” he said. “And if you want to get serious about supporting more housing and solving the housing issue, we have support the people who are in the business of building houses.”