My View: 180 Gordon Street beside Marianne’s Park
Well here we are. Many months have passed since this proposal to develop the old Shell station at 180 Gordon Street was brought forward. Many public meetings have been held, consultations have been done with the neighbourhood and citizens of Guelph, and the developer has even amended their original proposal cutting 1 unit, from 12 to 11 and made other adjustments to appease the city planning department, city council and the neighbourhood.
Sadly, after the last public meeting, where many concerns and comments were brought forward, nothing has really changed about this proposal. Still at 11 units, with many exceptions being asked for, city staff and the developer have not done enough to address the issues raised. Instead of looking at the real issues on density and the ‘elephant’ in the room, Marianne’s Park, they have went out of the way to find any reason to justify the size and density (using the Places to Grow act) and exceptions being asked for on this small lot, even if it goes against already long stated city policy and bylaws such as buffers between parks and development.
If they had the correct setback & buffer area, as well as proper density for this size of lot, I would not have as much of an issue with this project. Sure, I do not like having tall town homes beside a Memorial Park, however, if there was the proper separation & buffering and proper density based on the information provided by Hugh Whitely, then I’d be more open to the infill development on this site.
Instead, the proposal brings forward the same old issues. Same number of requests for exceptions, same density, same size, and same buffer zone. In any development, there may be a need for some minor variances to allow the development to function smoothly on its site. In this case, for this site specifically, it is mind-blowing to see how many violations and exceptions of Guelph’s Official Plan, Zoning Bylaws, and Density Guildelines there are.
Let me be clear, I am not against infill development. If done right, it can enhance a neighbourhood and fill in an unsightly empty lot with structures that add to the area positivity. However, to do this, developers must respect our Official Plan, work to really address the concerns of the neighbourhood, city council and the public, and understand the basic guidelines within the Places to Grow legislation especially on density for this size of lot.
Obviously, we all know why the builder is pushing for so many units on this small piece of infill land, all the while ignoring key city bylaws, floodplans, public parks etc. The developer wants to make the most money as possible, which is fine, however, to do so they are asking for exceptions to our bylaws that are crucial to the design of this city. Let me warn you, this is only the start to these requests and, if approval of this proposal goes forward, it will only open a can of worms for years to come with future requests of similar nature ion infill lots.
In my own personal opinion, I would rather have the city swap properties with the developer, which has been done before between school boards and builders and city and other developers here and in many other cities. By doing so, we can have the city expand the park into this small lot.
Some say taking 180 Gordon for parkland is wasteful in a location where parkland is extensive, others like the suggestion and even say more parking could be squeezed in for users of the very popular Royal City Park across the way and still have the right buffering between Marianne’s Park and a parking lot. However, I know City Council has said before on such a suggestion that: “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all”. and that is a tough call to make when dealing with this controversial proposal.
Dealing with this issue has raised many concerns by many citizens. Those who have spoken before you tonight or have submitted information and ideas before hand raise some key points, many which I support and implore you to read and listen to on this file. We all know the elephant in the room on this proposal is Marriane’s Park. If not for being a memorial park, I think the issues being raised on density, size etc would not get lost in mix by the media, staff or council because of the memorial park. It is important that everyone knows that the park is just one factor in this proposal and that the issues on density, design, parking and just as valid as the park itself.
To conclude, If this was not approved by council and had to go to the OMB, we all know the OMB will not care that the park and the historical or special place that it is. All it cares about is the facts and they have been raised very well tonight by many, including Mr Whitely who has pointed out what the real density for this size of site should be. Please consider all the information on this proposal and the elephant that it is Marianne’s Park. I hope a compromise can be found, even though the developer so far as not done anything of significance since the October meeting.