Proponent of controversial development says it's a way to provide more housing options in Elora

·2 min read

ELORA – A planner addressed some concerns regarding a building proposal that troubled heritage advocates and community members in Elora.

A Centre Wellington minor variance hearing was held on Thursday to permit ground-floor residential units in a proposed three-storey stacked townhouse at 27 Moir Street within the Elora heritage area.

The stacked townhouse would have eight units in total, four on the ground floor with four two-storey units above.

A staff report showed the application is in line with applicable zoning and official plan policies besides a request for flexibility to allow residential units on the ground floor, which is normally not permitted in the central business district.

There were 22 comments received from the public, with six being from the same two residents, concerned about losing commercial space and heritage issues among others.

A majority of the comments were in opposition to a second phase of this development which proposes a six-storey mixed-use building fronting Geddes Street.

Pierre Chauvin, planner with MHBC, delegated to the committee of adjustment on behalf of the applicant to clarify no applications have been made for the six-storey building and this variance strictly applied to the stacked townhouse on Moir Street.

He explained they are proposing “gentle intensification” and are not removing the option of having ground-floor commercial.

Chauvin said the idea was for a flexible space that can be used based on what the market demands. However, he noted there is a critical need for more housing options in Centre Wellington.

“I believe there is a housing crisis in our community that is not unique to Centre Wellington,” Chauvin said. “My client is trying to provide attainable rental housing to this community.”

In regards to the six-storey building, Chauvin said this would go through its own process but this would be a mixed-use building with ground-floor commercial units that would front on Geddes Street.

He said this would provide for considerable commercial and office space available in Elora.

Chauvin took responsibility for some of the confusion around the application as the original concept submitted showed the six-storey building which became the focus of residents’ concern.

However, he said he’s happy to have engaged in this dialogue to clarify the intent.

“We have nothing to hide, this is our intention and we encourage the debate and discussion,” Chauvin said.

The committee was fully supportive of the stacked townhouse variance.

Kathy Baranski, who also sits on the healthy growth advisory committee, said she believed this building will add value to downtown Elora.

She said the healthy growth advisory committee is “really looking at attainable housing for the core areas of downtown,” and it's a suitable place for it because people can live close to amenities.

Although the discussion looked at the bigger picture, ultimately Baranski said the variance meets the definition of minor.

The committee unanimously approved the minor variance.

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com