Residents oppose north-end rezoning

Duane Hicks

A proposed zoning bylaw amendment needed to build a 10-unit residential complex in the north end of town saw some opposition at last night’s council meeting.
As previously reported, the Fort Frances Native Urban Wahkaihganun Corp. has applied to amend the zoning for lands proposed to be severed from 1038 and 1040 York Ave. N. and fronting Eighth Street West.
The request is to re-zone the lands from Residential Type Two (R2) to Residential Type Four (R4) to accommodate the construction of a 10-unit residential complex and permit the use of the property for multi-residential use.
But in addition to presenting council with a petition signed by neighbourhood residents, York Avenue North resident Herman Pruys gave council several reasons why he and others feel it should not approve the rezoning.
“We are opposed to the zoning amendment,” Pruys said. “The area in question is a residential area and we want to keep it that way.
“Proximity to an apartment building devalues our homes,” he argued.
“As taxpayers, we should have a lot of say in what changes are requested.
“In the north end, we already have more than our share of apartments,” Pruys added. “There are units at Sixth and Webster Avenue, as well as at Sixth and Armit Avenue to the east.
“We also have an abundance of geared-to-income housing scattered throughout the north end, mainly Fifth Street, Sixth Street, and York Avenue,” he noted.
Pruys also said the property in question faces the lagoon and that presents some problems.
He recalled that several years ago, four north-end property owners were bought out and three of the properties faced the lagoon, just as the new apartments would now (he fourth was on Cornwall Avenue, facing westerly to the lagoon).
Pruys argued there needs to be a reasonable buffer zone between any residential building and the lagoon.
“I am amazed that the last four houses on York Avenue were allowed to be built,” he remarked. “It was just too close.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
Pruys said there have been a few environmental issues with the lagoon over the years, including odour problems and foam blowing off the surface of the ponds, not to mention the main effluent line rupturing—when the ditches on Eighth Street were overflowing with effluent to the point where the liquid came almost halfway down Cornwall Avenue between Eighth Street and Sixth Street.
“Even though for several years the lagoon settling ponds have been clay-lined, it is reasonable to expect that there is some contamination of the groundwater and the water table’s fairly high in that area,” he added.
“I know you may counter that the contamination is within acceptable limits, but I wonder what really is acceptable?”
Pruys said to think effluent is harmless would be wrong, noting area residents have spotted beaver in the area with large patches of fur missing.
“Construction of homes or apartments should not even be considered in that area,” he stressed. “A north wind would make the odour unbearable in the proposed construction zone.”
Pruys said economic reasons for the construction should not outweigh potential health concerns and the concerns of north-end taxpayers.
“We believe that existing apartment buildings in Fort Frances should be checked for vacancies to determine if we actually have a shortage of living space,” he noted, adding if, in fact, it is necessary to construct an apartment complex in the north end, then it is their submission that the existing complex at Sixth Street and Webster Avenue be considered.
There is room on the east side of Webster Avenue and due north of the existing apartment complex. There also is land due west of this same apartment complex.
There also must be areas other than the north end of town, added Pruys.
Pruys also said the Wahkaihganun Corp. bought the land fronting Eighth Street between York and Cornwall Avenue knowing it was zoned Residential Type Two (R2), and “they should not now cry foul if the zoning amendment is denied.”
“The petition shows a lot of people are against this zoning amendment and proposed construction. . . .
“We are asking you to please respect the wishes and concerns of many of the north-end residents by denying the zoning amendment and proposed construction,” Pruys concluded.
Prior to Pruys’ presentation, municipal planner Faye Flatt said the subject land is located in the living area as designated by the town’s official plan.
She also noted the official plan encourages a range of lot and housing sizes, including smaller affordable housing units for seniors and smaller families.
Flatt added the proposal does not appear to conflict with the applicable policies of the official plan.
In regards to zoning, the property currently is classified as Residential Type Two (R2) and would have to be rezoned to Residential Type Four (R4) to accommodate multi-residential housing.
Flatt said the development proposed appears to be consistent with the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement as it relates to intensification and providing for an appropriate range of housing types.
As for comments from the planning department, Flatt said municipal services are not available from the road allowance right-of-way fronting the property, negotiations have taken place with the property owner to resolve the issue, and it is anticipated negotiations will continue and services extended within the right-of-way to accommodate the development.
Nothing has been identified to date that the proposed use of the property is inappropriate, and notwithstanding information that came forward at last night’s public meeting, it appears the application could be supported, she noted.
Flatt said she will consider comments from the public in her final report, which will come forward to council at a future date.
After that, it will be up to council to make a decision on the proposed zoning bylaw amendment.