Proposed George Street apartment building questioned by Council

·4 min read

Proponents of a proposed four storey apartment building on George Street, adjacent to Chartwell Aurora long-term care, will have to make their case to Council again after lawmakers questioned the size of the project.

The 34-unit proposal, which is of modern design, will have to come before a future Public Planning meeting after Councillors rejected staff’s recommendation to send the proposal to General Committee, the next step on the approval process.

Among Council’s objections to the plan, as it stands, was the size of the building and the impacts resulting traffic might have on the surrounding community.

Developers are proposing to keep the existing three-storey apartment building at 25 George Street and build an additional apartment building of 26 units, spreading over to the lot on 29 George Street. The total plan, if brought to fruition, would result in 34 units and 42 below-grade parking spaces, spanning 42,162 square feet.

What was on the table last week, however, was markedly different from an Official Plan Amendment in 2013 which called for just 14 units, a detail which raised the eyebrows of Councillor Michael Thompson.

“I was on Council in 2013 when this application first came to us and subsequently as well,” he said. “When it first came to us, it was a combination Official Plan amendment and Zoning amendment for a 14-unit structure. At that time [there were] concerns about having 14 units and then it came back in 2015 as 12 units. We even passed the zoning bylaw amendment to allow [12]. Throughout the entire process, the Official Plan amendment was based on a 12-unit structure. We had renderings of the building an it was always supposed to be 12 units.”

Addressing these concerns, Director of Planning David Waters said specific unit numbers were not specified, dealing instead with land use rather than the number of dwellings.

“To me, they are one and the same,” said Councillor Thompson. “I see this as a completely different application than what was before us in 2015…and I think they require a new Official Plan amendment. We approved it on that belief and now I have a new application in front of me for double that amount and that is a concern.”

This too was a concern expressed by Councillor John Gallo who questioned whether there was a limit in the Official Plan on how many units could be on site. There isn’t, responded Mr. Waters, as that is regulated by the Zoning Bylaw. The Official Plan simply provides for use and change of use, he contended.

Similar sentiments were offered by Councillor Sandra Humfryes, who also voiced issues on the landscaping proposed.

“Seeing this tonight is a really big change,” she said. “To me, this is a brand-new application. It doesn’t seem like an add-on or something to alter a few things. I am not sure it is quite compatible [with the neighbourhood]. It has gone from one thing to something completely different. I think it needs to be a smaller development and something that clearly needs to fit in within the neighbourhood. Something in the design has to change.”

Councillor Wendy Gaertner agreed, adding: “To me this is a completely different application and should be treated as such and come back to another Public Planning meeting.”

Some support for the project was received around the table, however, including from Councillor Rachel Gilliland who not only hailed the modern design of the building, but the fact it was bringing apartment stock to Aurora, providing a boost to what has been identified as a lacking component of Aurora’s housing stock.

But Mayor Tom Mrakas agreed with the majority, stating that more work needs to be done – not just on this application, but looking at the development as part of a bigger picture. His concerns, and those of his fellow Council members, cited concerns raised earlier in the evening by Tyler Street residents. They said they were concerned about the traffic impact this development would have on the area when looked at with the ongoing residential redevelopment on the former site of Collis Leather and the rebuilding of Aurora United Church, which is being done in conjunction with a seniors’ residence.

“It is not just one building,” said Mayor Mrakas. “[Staff need] to look at it in combination with the United Church development and the townhouses coming on line on Tyler. Don’t look at studies in isolation. We need to do that looking on all applications coming forward.”

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran