• Rob Hornberger

Developer to appeal town council's rejection of Main Street East apartment project

Brotto Holdings will honour revised plan that would spare heritage home, president says

Town council's vote to reject a development proposal for 183 Main St. E. will be challenged before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, the developer says. Town councillors say they expected a challenge no matter which way the town voted — either by the builder or the owner of the property next door.

KINGSVILLE — The developer whose plan to build an apartment building at 183 Main Street E. was rejected by town council last month is appealing the decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

Brotto Family Holdings had originally planned to build a six-storey building with 28 units. The plan rejected by council in March reduced the number of units to 22, dropped the number of storeys to three and also abandoned plans for five additional brownstone townhouses.

“It was expected,” Coun. Kimberly DeYong said of the appeal. “My understanding we would be going to LPAT regardless of the outcome (of the vote). It would have been brought forward by the developer or brought forward by certain residents, so that’s not a surprise.”

The amended plan by Brotto also called for severing the house from the main property and selling it. The original plan called for demolishing the home — which is in the process of being designated historic under the Ontario Heritage Act. The designation is being sought by the town, not by the current owner who has a conditional offer from Brotto to buy the property.

Town council was told prior to the vote last month that the developer could resurrect the original plan at the LPAT hearing — the one calling for the demolition of the house — and ask that it be approved. Two councillors, Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Thomas Neufeld, voted for the revised proposal because it would save the nearly century-old home.

Christian LeFave, president of Brotto Family Holdings, said the company will not revert to the original plan when it appeals council’s decision before the tribunal.

“At this time, I’m willing to honour the revision that I had made in good faith,” he said Thursday.

“I have compromised. I have compromised more than I was required to do. I have really listened to public comments … (the) reasonable public comments.”

DeYong said in an interview this week that “there were enough boxes that weren’t ticked for me to support the application.”

DeYong said there was not enough buffering and setbacks between the house at 183 Main St. E. and the adjacent home to the west which has an historical designation. She said the project is also too large for the site.

“Something the (town) planner said that really struck me, he said this kind of change requires a higher standard and planning justification. So just barely meeting some requirement, to me, doesn’t come in to that higher standard and planning justification.”

Robert Brown, the town’s manager of planning services, recommended approval of Brotto’s plan, saying it conformed to the official plan and also increased densification downtown — a provincial goal.

“Coun. DeYong said there is not adequate buffering for the home at 183 Main St.,” said LeFave. “I meet the required side yard setback for the zoning the town has set up for this type of building. I’m not asking for relief; I meet the requirement.”

LeFave said the company has also started talks with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) about grant programs that will allow some of the units to be set aside for affordable housing — a town goal.

He said he will require town co-operation if his company applies to CHMC for any financial help.

At the March meeting which council — in a 4-2 vote — turned down Brotto’s revised plan, concerns were raised about increased traffic along Main Street East.

Earlier this month council approved a new Starbucks, which will be built on vacant land just east of the TD Canada Trust bank building.

“I don’t know what the procedure is but the town has to hire a lawyer for this type of litigation and they have to hire a planner to go against their own planner.”

LeFave felt it was inconsistent for some town councillors to cite traffic concerns about his proposal but still support the building of a Starbucks.

“I’m dropping units right in the middle of town where people can walk and bike,” he said.

In an interview Thursday, Coun. Neufeld estimated the cost of defending council’s decision at LPAT at $35,000.

“That may not sound like a lot to some, but it is to me,” he said.

LeFave agreed. “I don’t know what the procedure is but the town has to hire a lawyer for this type of litigation and they have to hire a planner to go against their own planner.”

The town is in the process of hiring its own, in-house lawyer but it’s not known when the hiring will take place. It’s expected soon.

Donna Krahn, owner of the home, said she fully supports Brotto Family Holdings’ appeal to LPAT.

“All I can say is we are fully, 100 per cent, in support of this proposal,” Krahn said. She declined further comment.

Anne-Marie Lemire, who lives beside the Krahn property at 171 Main St. E., confirmed Friday she would have pressed ahead with her own appeal to LPAT if council voted in favour of the Brotto plan.

She said she will appear before the LPAT hearing as a witness and argue the proposal is framed in a way that will diminish the heritage value of her home and the house next door.

“It’s the scale and the mass of the building. It’s too big for the size of the property. It’s out of scale with the streetscape so it will deter from the heritage value of both homes.”

The Brotto apartment building would be built behind the home at 183 Main St. E along the east side of the Lemire backyard.

The house at 183 Main St. E was built around 1924 as a wedding gift by Bon Jasperson — a prominent local businessman — to his daughter. The Bon Jasperson/Lemire home is located next door at 171 Main Street E. and was designated as a heritage home in 2012 under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The two-and-half storey house built for Jasperson’s daughter was constructed in the colonial revival style by the North American Construction Company from Bay City, Mich.

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