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On August 21, a Public meeting was held to hear from the Public on the application by Kristy MacDonald to convert the property at 394 College Street (for more details, see link below).  Right from the start Mayor Brocanier was not happy.  Kristy’s flyer had said that Gils’ niece was the applicant and implied nepotism.  But at the start of the meeting, Gil said that there was no conflict and that the relationship was that Christy is his wife’s niece.  There was a lot of information exchanged during the meeting which was attended by a large number of people - the Council Chamber was full to overflowing and when asked, two thirds of those present stood to indicate their interest.  They appeared to be a mix of neighbours and potential renters (Christy said that some potential renters were present).

The professional hired by Christy said that the interior of the building was no longer suitable for a single house, nor as a B&B or group home.  Whatever was done, renovations would be required. There are currently 10 bedrooms (no bed count) and the plan was for 5. 

The building was on the market for two years and before buying, Christy checked the feasibility of her plans with the Town’s planning department.  She said that there is a demand for the kind of rental property she is planning – one potential renter was at the meeting to support her application and there were three letters in support.

Speaking in opposition to the application, neighbour Brian Wynn said that the proposal was “neither desirable nor compatible with our interests”.  The idea of adding an entrance from College indicated Christy’s non-heritage mindset.

Margaret Wrightson also spoke in opposition with arguments similar to those expressed by her husband (Lester Northeast) – see previous post.

Emily Chorley gave an eloquent presentation – again her arguments were similar to those in her flyer.  When she said that she thought that Gil should recuse himself, Gil angrily responded and said he took her comments as a personal attack, said that there was no conflict according to the rules and that he would not abstain from voting.  One of the speakers later pointed out that the appearance of conflict was also important.

Emily said that she had 67 signed petitions opposing the application. They were collected over a period of 3 days. Some were from residents of other Heritage districts who were concerned with the precedent being set.

She and others said that many properties that have had similar conversions are now poorly maintained, but in response it was pointed out that there are also some which have been well maintained.

Christy gave assurance that there were no plans to create an entrance to College Street – she said there was an earlier thought of doing that but it was not part of the current plan.  In response to a question from Brian Darling, Planning Manager Rob Franklin said that if a severance of the southern portion of the property was requested, there would be a public meeting on the subject.

Christy said that despite comments that renters of small apartments do not stay long, she had received a lot of requests from people looking for long term rentals (one spoke in support of her application).  She said that there were many people wanting to down-size.

Another 5 people spoke with concerns that were similar but in addition, the Town was also criticized for communicating poorly on this subject.

Christy’s partner is a builder with experience in renovations and he said that the proposed renovations would be “beautiful and in line with the exterior heritage style”.  There would be a large basement apartment (over 1000 sq. ft.), a mid sized ground floor apartment, two small second floor apartments (around 500 sq. ft. each) and a mid sized one in the attic. 

Later, at the regular Council meeting, Aaron moved that the application be deferred to Staff for a further report for clarification on a number of issues that had been raised e.g. Traffic, Heritage Guidelines and precedents.  The motion passed with all in favour.  Gil commented that this is a bigger issue than just this one application.  He said that the Planning Act wants intensification but “do we support it”?  The decision could affect other applications.  It was hoped that the report will be ready for the next Council COW meeting on Sept 11.

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