West Lincoln staff push back on resubmitted plans for development of historic Smithville building

Plans to redevelop a heritage house on Griffin Street in Smithville have risen like a phoenix.

Back in April 2022, West Lincoln councillors pushed back on plans to develop the lot at 197 Griffin Street, citing concerns it would erode the historic nature of downtown Smithville.

Now, the applicants have returned, with new plans to develop the property.

At the Dec. 16 planning, building and environmental committee meeting, a public hearing was held to discuss an application submitted by the owner of 197 Griffin St., C A Real Estate Holdings Inc. (Christoph Arnold) and NPG Planning Solutions Inc. as agent.

The application was an amended version of the proposals submitted back in April last year, rectifying some of the concerns that were raised at the time.

The current property has commercial space on the ground floor and an apartment on the second storey. The plan is to redevelop this property to result in four dwelling units and a ground floor commercial space within the existing main building.

The main change was the façade of the building, which was one of the biggest points of contention at the April 2022 meeting.

Among the changes, according to Jeremy Tran of NPG Planning Solutions, were updated materials, with a focus on the traditional materials of brick and wood, and a move away from metal and glass.

There were also changes to the windows on the north side due to privacy concerns overlooking the neighbour to the north.

Parking was increased to nine spaces, and the driveway is increased half a metre to 3.3 metres.

“We do think this is a good example of gentle intensification,” said Tran.

As part of the proposal, the applicants submitted a request for site-specific variances, including the proportion of land dedicated to a driveway and maximum garage width.

However, planning staff were not completely satisfied with the amended proposal and wish to keep working with the applicants to refine the façade and elevations of the development.

“Staff, in our review, note that significant things could be done to even further enhance the historical value of that building, in keeping with the heritage of the downtown core,” said Gerrit Boerema, senior planner at the township.

That’s slightly complicated by Bill 109, said Boerema, because that legislation compresses the time allowed to approve a project.

Staff will continue to work with the applicants in order to bring the plans up to the township’s standards.

Brian Treble, director of planning, said that the recent Bill 23 will complicate matters as aspects like urban design will no longer be allowed to be discussed as part of site plan process.

“However,” he said, “this is a very prominent location in our… downtown core and the development is going to have to be designed and done properly and in accordance with standards that are acceptable to the (township), if approval is to be granted… We’ve made great strides but we’re not convinced as staff we’re completely there yet.”

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News