• Rob Hornberger

Town puts temporary freeze on Main Street East development, two projects get exemptions

Builders said it would be unfair to halt apartment building, subdivision construction

Construction of two six-story apartment buildings behind the new medical centre on Main Street East is expected to begin within the next few weeks, according to developer Patty Van Minnen. She and husband Harry Van Minnen asked council to grant the project an exemption from an interim control bylaw halting development in the area for at least a year.

KINGSVILLE — Town council has passed an interim control bylaw halting development along Main Street East for at least a year while giving exemptions to two developers who said any pause was unfair.

Patty and Henry Van Minnen, who built the new medical centre on Main Street East and now want to complete their project by building two six-storey apartment buildings in the rear, told council they are within weeks of beginning construction.

“We are within a few weeks of hoping to break ground. We have a list of potential people who want to rent these apartments,” Patty Van Minnen said.

If council passed the interim control bylaw halting development, the Van Minnens would not be able to obtain a building permit — despite having the necessary site plan approvals.

“We did our traffic impact (studies) we did everything on the site we’re potentially going to build on and that was all fine. It seems that everything that came after us is what is impacting this, which doesn’t seem real fair to me.”

Henry Van Minnen said he is prepared to work with the town and create a link from the apartments to Woodycrest Avenue to ease traffic concerns on Main Street.

He said that offer would be withdrawn if the town issued a temporary halt on construction.

Patty Van Minnen

Tony Youssef, who owns a large block of vacant land across from the high school, made many of the same points.

He said he was willing to temporarily stagger his plan for a housing subdivision so none of the homes built would have an exit onto Main Street. The connecting link would be to Murray or Santos streets.

Youssef said concept plans have been completed and are ready to be submitted to the town. The plans call for a two- or three-storey condo or apartment building facing Main Street East and homes to the south.

“The subdivision to the south, we’re not asking for any access to Main Street.” he said.

“I’m asking for consideration that the north of the property be affected by this bylaw (while allowing) the development to the south. I don’t necessarily feel that it’s fair that all 25 acres are affected by this when the property to the south is not affecting Main Street,” he said.

Robert Brown, the town’s director of planning, said the interim control bylaw would buy the town time to create a secondary development plan for the area of Main Street close to the high school. He said the town’s Main Street committee is in the process of drafting recommendations on how the street should be developed. Its recommendations are to be released soon and will be used in the drafting of the secondary plan.

“One such tool in our arsenal is the development of a secondary plan area. What this does is it takes a much deeper look into a very specific area,” Brown said.

“Obviously, this is a double-edged sword. There is a potential of delay to existing development and a potential loss of development.”

Coun. Kimberly DeYong supported the freeze.

“There is no point doing a secondary plan if you’re not putting any pause on the development because the development comes before the plan, which is part of the problem with Main Street East now — there’s been no plan,” she said.

“Every development that is brought to us, we have no means of implementing what the town would like to see because we have no plan.”

Coun. Thomas Neufeld proposed an amendment exempting the Van Minnen and Youssef properties from the bylaw.

“To block them for a year, potentially two, doesn’t seem right to me. In (the Van Minnens’) words, they are three weeks away from asking for a building permit.

“The south side of the road, it was no secret that eventually it would be developed … it was known for a long time that would be future residential.”

Council passed Neufeld’s amendment. Neufeld, Mayor Nelson Santos, Coun. Tony Gaffan and Coun. Larry Patterson voted in favour. DeYong, Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Coun. Laura Lucier voted against.

The secondary plan study will still go ahead.

Neufeld said the biggest issue for the secondary plan is the high school. The town hopes to buy the property once the new high school opens in 2023 and use it to build affordable housing.

“That is a big question mark right now and that is deserving of some study,” Neufeld said.

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