After suddenly transferring a proposed 50-unit seniors complex from Sundridge to Powassan during the summer of 2020, the Non-Profit Organization for Almaguin Housing (NOAH) appears ready to move forward with the Sundridge project. In an email to Sundridge municipal staff, NOAH chair Bill Atkinson said the organization “would like to continue and finalize the rezoning initiative.” The land NOAH wants to see rezoned is a 1.25-hectare site on Highway 124. It's asking the land be rezoned from Highway Commercial to Residential Multiple Exception. The site is occupied by the now-closed Steirerhut Restaurant and three smaller buildings. The former restaurant is of interest to council because it's pursuing a heritage designation for the building, which was built in 1881 and is considered the oldest structure in the community. In its applicatione, NOAH states the restaurant building would be maintained but all the other buildings on the land would be removed to make way for the 50-unit seniors complex. When the rezoning matter was raised at the last council meeting, Coun. Barbara Belrose said she believed council “should proceed with caution.” Coun. Steve Hicks agreed with the cautious approach.
Hicks said he would have more to say when council discusses the rezoning request at its regular meeting of council Jan. 12, when the rezoning vote is expected. But Hicks did say the municipality and the area “definitely need housing and (it's) housing not just for seniors but for all ages and demographics.” The rezoning request doesn't appear to affect council’s goal of achieving heritage designation for the Steirerhut Restaurant building. Council had earlier hired Municipal Planning Services Limited of Barrie to help guide it through the rezoning. In a report, planner Chris Jones, told the municipality the 50-unit, three-storey building is good planning for the Sundridge and recommended that council approve the rezoning. Sundridge does not have an Official Plan, so the Provincial Policy Statement is the primary document that guides the municipality's planning decisions. In his recommendation, Jones also says the proposed seniors building is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement. In his report to council, Jones said NOAH's engineering consultant acknowledged or agreed to a number of suggested changes the municipality’s engineering consultant recommended in the areas of a site service plan and also the plan for grading the lot. Jones added none of the recommended changes are insurmountable. Regarding water to the building, the report states water for drinking and washing would come from a drilled well. The site would contain a second well which would serve as a backup in case of a pump system failure, thus providing a higher level of assurance the water supply is not interrupted. Jones said it's his opinion the proponent's proposal addresses the Provincial Policy Statement requirement that the seniors complex “should have no negative impacts on the quality and quantity of water.” Jones adds his assessment is based on the proponent using a reasonable approach when studying the water, that laws and regulations are followed when creating the well or wells and also that regulations in the re-zoned area can be created that impose restrictions. The 50-unit complex would be a mix of bachelor units, one- and two-bedroom apartments. The proposed rezoning bylaw states there would be a maximum of 26 bachelor units, no more than 18 single-bedroom units and up to six two-bedroom apartments. Additionally, total occupancy of the building cannot exceed 57 people. The complex would have more than 90 parking spaces and Jones doesn't expect this would create any parking or transportation problems since the building would be in an area that already has a wide range of commercial uses. Since the complex would pay taxes to the municipality, Jones said there's a case to be made the completed structure “could represent an overall benefit to the village's tax base.” He adds Sundridge is fortunate to be able to play a role in providing this type of housing. Jones says the complex will strengthen Sundridge's role as a regional service centre and will help older residents currently in detached dwellings relocate to a seniors building, thereby freeing up their current homes for new residents looking at moving to the community.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget