Print

As reported on September 24, Cobourg Legion has agreed with T-V-M Group to redevelop their property.  A new building will be built on the  vacant lot – now used for parking – at the corner of Orr and Hibernia Streets just north of Legion Village and South of the existing Legion hall.  The new building will be 6 storeys which is more than the 3 allowed by the Zoning for that location.  The idea is to have a Hall on the ground floor with a  4m ceiling (lower than originally proposed) and Condos above.  As can be expected there were a number of objections  - primarily initiated by ACO and Keith Oliver.

legion450Proposed new Legion BuildingAccording to the report to council on Dec 2nd, the comments by both ACO and Keith Oliver were in error on how the building will look.  Although “massive”, it is not as bad as their sketches indicate.   Since both ACO and Keith made their objections public (especially Keith), and based on what the objections said,  it seemed to the town’s planning department that objections by citizens were based on these two erroneous descriptions.  Further, there have been modifications made to the design – notably the height of the ground floor ceiling is now 4 m instead if the 4.75 m originally proposed. 

The design currently proposed is as shown in the photo at top right (click to enlarge).

There were two detailed objections:

  1. ACO  (Architectural Conservancy Ontario – Cobourg Branch) objected to the design and that it was not in keeping with surrounding buildings.
  2. Keith Oliver had a similar objection but also was more constructive and suggested an alternative design. 

The Town planning department commented about the alternative suggested by Keith Oliver:

As an alternative, Mr. Oliver also presented a concept drawing of a 4 storey building with a 'leg' on Hibernia Street ("L" shape) and a mansard 5th level to hide mechanical equipment. Mr. Oliver's argument is that it would have less massing or impact to the neighbourhood as well as providing for a total of 65 units. This concept appears to be widely distributed in the neighbourhood and several of the public comments are in favour of it. In addition, while Mr. Oliver's alternate proposal would serve to reduce the overall height of the building by approx. 5.0 m (as revised), this proposal would actually add significant building mass to the site along a second street (Hibernia). Upon reviewing the 'L-shaped' counter-proposal, the applicant has expressed a number of concerns, including loss of parking spaces, creation of more units requiring parking, and the resulting increase in bulk and mass on the overall site. They also identify concerns meeting Building Code as well as cost issues. They note concerns with Mr. Oliver's suggestion of a 5' brick wall surrounding the parking lot on the north side of Orr Street being a safety problem.

For the ACO comments, the town commented that the sketch contains gross inaccuracies and does not provide correct scale or context.

There are other errors about planning requirements and the town concludes:

Finally, although "conformity with the Official Plan and conformity with adjacent uses of land" are important considerations of rezoning, there are many other important considerations that must be evaluated during the planning process, such as the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), Provincial Growth Plan, design guidelines, and good planning principles. General conformity and compatibility is not to be interpreted as identical to, but rather is to be measured through the ability to co-exist or integrate well without adverse impact or conflict. In my opinion, the proposal as revised would achieve an appropriate level of compatibility with the surrounding land use and built form context, similar to other lower density neighbourhoods with 5 to 6-storey buildings elsewhere in the community.

There were also 44 other objections received and 4 in favour.  The Planning department  seemed to not give these much weight since they commented as follows:

Given that the Planning Department received relatively few enquiries for information on the proposal, and that a large number of submissions used similar formats and wording, it is our belief that many of these submissions relied on the information contained in the ACO Public Notice and/or from Mr. Oliver's widely distributed newsletter which, as indicated above, are based on inaccurate and misleading illustrations which may have unduly influenced the opinions of the public.

The report concludes by recommending that the application for re-zoning be approved.  Formal application for a Site plan will still be required to be approved by Council.  This will include aesthetic considerations.

At the December 2 Council meeting of the Committee of the whole, presentations were made by ACO, by Keith Oliver (per above) and by Michael MacKenzie and the developer (TVM).  Not a lot was added to the above but it was emphasized  that the question before Council was not design and aesthetics but zoning. One suggestion that was made was that some of the Legion Village land could be used to spread  the building out and allow the same number of units but at a reduced height.  The developer and Councillor Henderson said that the Village operated separately and there was no business relationship with the Legion so such an arrangement would be hard to organize. But in the end, the only real zoning issue was building height - questions of aesthetics and design would be covered in site plan approval which would also have to come before council at a future date.  Several councillors disagreed with this and the vote was close.

Against: Councillors Henderson, Mutton, Todd
For: Rowden, Frost, Sherwin
Deciding vote: Brocanier
Motion carried.  The project will move forward to the full Council on Dec. 9 with the next hurdle being site plan approval.

 

Update

December 9, 2013

At the full council meeting on December 9, Gail Rayment and Keith Oliver made further presentations against the project and Amit Sofer, president of the TVM Group made another plea for approval of re-zoning given that the final design would be subject to site plan approval.  Additional letters of objection were also tabled.  Given all this, Stan Frost moved that the project approval be delayed until such time as the developer could satisfactorily address the concerns of the public [That is, until March, 2014].  His motion was seconded by John Henderson and carried.

So the project has been delayed.  I would guess that the developer will have to come up with either a full re-design or as a minimum, show a six storey design that looks attractive and fits with the surroundings.  This second option would mean that he would have to go to the site plan stage without the assurance of re-zoning being approved.

 

Update

December 18, 2013

When a rezoning application is submitted, Council must respond within 120 days. In this case, the delay has been significantly longer than that. Now that the council decision has been tabled until March, the developer has had enough and has appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). That is usually a long process – perhaps six months before a hearing – but it is expected to support the developer in this case. So it looks like all that the delay has caused, is more expense in legal fees at the OMB plus an additional delay. Council can still approve – or not – the final design (appearance, siding etc) but not whether it has 6 storeys or not. I understand that this is a zoning issue and will now be decided by the OMB.

December 20, 2013

News reports on the local media  (107.9) report that Manager of Planning Rob Franklin says he has to gather a long list of documents from memos public comments and minutes of meetings and forward them to the O-M-B within a time period that encompasses the Christmas and New Year holidays.  The OMB requires a response in 15 days - the notice was received Dec 11.