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18-22 Main St. will remain residential for one more year

18-22 Main Street Smiths Falls

Ground floor residential application on Main St. East receives one year extension; three year request denied
BY AMY HOGUE

Despite recommendations from staff to extend a temporary amendment allowing ground floor residential at 18-22 Main St. East for an additional three years, council decided to allow a one year extension only. The property, owned by Smiths Falls’ resident, Jamie Benda, has been the topic of lengthy discussion at council in the past, and the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Sept. 14 was no exception.

Senior Planner, Nicole McKernan, presented a report to council at the meeting, with the recommendation that council approve an additional three year term. McKernan pointed out that there is a 44 per cent vacancy rate currently on Main Street East and that the property in question “is right on the fringe of commercial uses.” McKernan also noted that the downtown vacancy rate doesn’t fluctuate very much, that it’s just the locations for the vacancies that change from year to year.

McKernan cautioned council that each planning application must be decided on its own merit and a decision to extend the temporary use would not create a precedent. McKernan pointed out that as part of the site plan control agreement in this case, the applicant had to provide an open space for tenants in the rear yard as well as sufficient parking spaces, which was completed in late spring 2015.

“It would be difficult to meet those requirements on other properties,” McKernan said, adding that she is optimistic the downtown vacancies will change in the next three years.
Councillor John Maloney pointed out that council can only extend the temporary use for an additional six years, because of a maximum of 10 years for a temporary use by-law, and McKernan confirmed this is the case.

Benda was in attendance at the meeting, along with his planning representative, Tracy Zander, of Zanderplan Inc. Maloney asked Benda for clarification on whether or not the property had been made available for rent commercially.

“At the initial purchase I had it available (for rent),” Benda responded, and when pressed qualified that to be for a period of approximately three to five months. “It became apparent very quickly that there was a high demand for ground floor residential space.” Benda also said the property sat vacant for two years before he purchased it.

Maloney questioned McKernan’s claim that the property is at the end of the commercial strip on Main Street East. Maloney said that in his opinion it’s in the middle, pointing out that there are three businesses beyond it on that side of the street, and four businesses on the opposite side.

Walking by the property and being able to see directly into people’s apartments was also one of Maloney’s concerns, as was tenants sitting outside their front doors.
“Over the past four years since people moved in there there’s been drinking and smoking outside,” Maloney said, “To me, it doesn’t look nice.”
Maloney questioned if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to keep it occupied with residential tenants, and questioned whether it could ever be rented out commercially under those conditions. Maloney stated he would not support a three year agreement, but could support a shorter period of time.

Councillor Jay Brennan pointed out to councillors that the application conforms with the town’s Official Plan (OP), and questioned whether the municipality could face an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal should they decide against the extension.

“When I look at it, it’s not an overall policy that council’s adopting,” Brennan said, “It’s a case by case look at applications.”
Councillor Dawn Quinn asked Benda why he was only requesting the change on a temporary basis. Benda responded that initially, 2014, he had applied for an OP amendment to allow the use permanently, but that council had decided to change that application to a temporary use without consulting him.

Quinn said she is not in support of the application, citing concerns for the impact it could have on the downtown.
“Looking at this property I’m not in favour of residential in that part of downtown,” Quinn stated. Quinn informed council that at one point the owner of Davidson Courtyard had considered turning it into residences, as opposed to commercial space, and asked what would the downtown look like now if they had done so.
“Imagine what we’d have lost,” Quinn said, “I think we have to be very careful here.”

In the end, council agreed to support a one year extension for the temporary use. The matter will return to council in September 2016.

Background
Benda originally applied for a temporary zoning amendment for a three year term in 2012, which was approved by council. Following approval, an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal was filed, which was then withdrawn before the hearing. The 2011 approval came hand in hand with a site plan control agreement that was never fully executed due to the OMB appeal.
Last fall, Benda again approached council with an Official Plan amendment request to recognize the ground floor residential as a permanent use for the property. After lengthy debate at council, Benda was granted a one year temporary use extension. Site plan control provisions were instituted at that time, requiring façade improvements and landscaped open space in the rear yard of the property. These provisions were completed in late spring 2015.

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18-22 Main St. will remain residential for one more year

18-22 Main Street Smiths Falls

Ground floor residential application on Main St. East receives one year extension; three year request denied
BY AMY HOGUE

Despite recommendations from staff to extend a temporary amendment allowing ground floor residential at 18-22 Main St. East for an additional three years, council decided to allow a one year extension only. The property, owned by Smiths Falls’ resident, Jamie Benda, has been the topic of lengthy discussion at council in the past, and the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Sept. 14 was no exception.

Senior Planner, Nicole McKernan, presented a report to council at the meeting, with the recommendation that council approve an additional three year term. McKernan pointed out that there is a 44 per cent vacancy rate currently on Main Street East and that the property in question “is right on the fringe of commercial uses.” McKernan also noted that the downtown vacancy rate doesn’t fluctuate very much, that it’s just the locations for the vacancies that change from year to year.

McKernan cautioned council that each planning application must be decided on its own merit and a decision to extend the temporary use would not create a precedent. McKernan pointed out that as part of the site plan control agreement in this case, the applicant had to provide an open space for tenants in the rear yard as well as sufficient parking spaces, which was completed in late spring 2015.

“It would be difficult to meet those requirements on other properties,” McKernan said, adding that she is optimistic the downtown vacancies will change in the next three years.
Councillor John Maloney pointed out that council can only extend the temporary use for an additional six years, because of a maximum of 10 years for a temporary use by-law, and McKernan confirmed this is the case.

Benda was in attendance at the meeting, along with his planning representative, Tracy Zander, of Zanderplan Inc. Maloney asked Benda for clarification on whether or not the property had been made available for rent commercially.

“At the initial purchase I had it available (for rent),” Benda responded, and when pressed qualified that to be for a period of approximately three to five months. “It became apparent very quickly that there was a high demand for ground floor residential space.” Benda also said the property sat vacant for two years before he purchased it.

Maloney questioned McKernan’s claim that the property is at the end of the commercial strip on Main Street East. Maloney said that in his opinion it’s in the middle, pointing out that there are three businesses beyond it on that side of the street, and four businesses on the opposite side.

Walking by the property and being able to see directly into people’s apartments was also one of Maloney’s concerns, as was tenants sitting outside their front doors.
“Over the past four years since people moved in there there’s been drinking and smoking outside,” Maloney said, “To me, it doesn’t look nice.”
Maloney questioned if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to keep it occupied with residential tenants, and questioned whether it could ever be rented out commercially under those conditions. Maloney stated he would not support a three year agreement, but could support a shorter period of time.

Councillor Jay Brennan pointed out to councillors that the application conforms with the town’s Official Plan (OP), and questioned whether the municipality could face an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal should they decide against the extension.

“When I look at it, it’s not an overall policy that council’s adopting,” Brennan said, “It’s a case by case look at applications.”
Councillor Dawn Quinn asked Benda why he was only requesting the change on a temporary basis. Benda responded that initially, 2014, he had applied for an OP amendment to allow the use permanently, but that council had decided to change that application to a temporary use without consulting him.

Quinn said she is not in support of the application, citing concerns for the impact it could have on the downtown.
“Looking at this property I’m not in favour of residential in that part of downtown,” Quinn stated. Quinn informed council that at one point the owner of Davidson Courtyard had considered turning it into residences, as opposed to commercial space, and asked what would the downtown look like now if they had done so.
“Imagine what we’d have lost,” Quinn said, “I think we have to be very careful here.”

In the end, council agreed to support a one year extension for the temporary use. The matter will return to council in September 2016.

Background
Benda originally applied for a temporary zoning amendment for a three year term in 2012, which was approved by council. Following approval, an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal was filed, which was then withdrawn before the hearing. The 2011 approval came hand in hand with a site plan control agreement that was never fully executed due to the OMB appeal.
Last fall, Benda again approached council with an Official Plan amendment request to recognize the ground floor residential as a permanent use for the property. After lengthy debate at council, Benda was granted a one year temporary use extension. Site plan control provisions were instituted at that time, requiring façade improvements and landscaped open space in the rear yard of the property. These provisions were completed in late spring 2015.

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