‘Far too dense’: Council, residents resistant to proposed Ridgeway development

When it comes to a proposed development on Ridge Road North, councillors admitted they may not be able to make either side happy.

Following a lengthy public meeting Thursday evening, April 18, councillors made it clear they were not happy with the plan submitted by Upper Canada Consultants’ Ethan Laman, on behalf of owners Stephen Fischer and Paul Savoia.

But at the same time, they warned neighbours of the properties that whatever ends up being approved for the irregularly shaped land probably won’t please them either.

“It may not be what the residents want to hear, and might not want to be what the developer wants to hear,” said Councillor Nick Dubanow, sharing his thoughts on the proposal after several residents spoke in opposition.

The proposal includes several blocks with various plans. A five-storey, 91-unit apartment building makes up the bulk of the residential units, though there are an additional 12 units from six two- and three-story semi-detached dwellings and another 12 units in a mixed-use commercial build.

For the project to be approved, the developers are seeking relief from several official plan and zoning bylaw requirements, including height, density, various dimensions, and parking.

Laman said the official plan and zoning bylaw changes are largely the result of the properties’ odd shape, along with an attempt to provide housing at a lower price point. He said the target of the development is primarily seniors.

“The height and density is all tied with the intention to provide housing at that price point,” he said. The five-storey build will include units ranging from 700 to 1,300 square feet, Laman said, with prices starting in the mid $400,000s.

However, neighbours of the property were not at all happy with the proposal. Concerns ranged from traffic and parking, to environmental concerns regarding nearby trees, and the potential loss of habitat for the red-headed woodpecker.

Tom Smith, who lives right next to the property, was also worried about what the construction would do to his home.

“When they start blasting, what’s going to happen to my house?” he asked.

The developers did make several changes since an earlier open house in an attempt to make it more palatable to neighbours, though in some cases those seemed to have had no impact or even backfired.

Increasing the apartment building from four to five storeys was meant to preserve trees, though the increased height bothered residents and councillors alike.

Additionally, resident Ron Hughes, who also has experience as an arborist, warned surrounding trees on neighbouring properties could be at risk regardless. He said those trees could die as a result of root damage during construction.

Residents pointed out there have been several projects in Ridgeway approved and asked the Town to consider this proposal in that context. The area is already lacking in park and recreational space, along with nearby schools that are at or beyond capacity, they argued.

“Now our streets are going to be even more bombarded with traffic and parking,” said Bonnie Ehrhardt.

Some politicians drew some red lines regarding the proposal.

“There’s going to have to be modifications to the plan,” said Mayor Wayne Redekop. “I think this is far too dense, the parking on the access is something I will not support.”

Dubanow, likewise, called the fifth floor and the plan to have parking on the entrance road to the development “non-starters.”

Councillors were cognizant of the potential for this proposal to end up at the Ontario Land Tribunal in an appeal, but Dubanow said he was willing to let that play out if some more compromises weren’t made.

Having said that, he added that existing planning for the area is fairly recent, and it does call for increased density.

“It may not be everything residents want, but it is in place and it’s pretty recent,” he said.

Other councillors pointed out that the owners should have known what they were getting into when they bought the land a few years ago.

“They knew the limitations on the property,” Councillor Tom Lewis said. He said Fort Erie is in need of increased housing options, especially for older adults, and is frustrated to see other approved developments not moving forward.

“We do need housing, and unfortunately that is in somebody’s backyard,” he said, adding he’d be more interested in entertaining the large number of amendments if there was more of an affordable housing aspect.

No decisions were made at the meeting. Staff will now take the comments and work on a recommendation report.

Stay Informed

Events, offers, contests, and breaking news, all delivered straight to your inbox.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *