St. Michael’s zoning waiting for council approval

By Merna Emara

Fort Frances council held a public meeting on Monday to allow members of the public to make comments in favour of or in opposition to changing the zoning of the former St. Michael’s school from Institutional (I) to Residential (R2).

The change of the zoning is the first step to bring to life the project envisioned by the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB).

The application submitted by RRDSSAB requested an amendment to the zoning bylaw for 820 Fifth St., with a site-specific accessory used as a day nursery. Approval of this zoning bylaw will also see the construction of five 8-plex housing units for seniors along with the EarlyON day nursery.

Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer at RRDSSB, said the intent is to retain the playground. It will however, be relocated closer to the EarlyON childcare rooms, which will be part of the EarlyON Centre. And it would still be accessible to the public after hours, McCormick said.

McCormick added that although the five 8-plex buildings are going to be partly community housing it is predominantly market rent apartments.

“We have a significant area in the school and we’re looking at what we call affordable tenancies, which are as low as 30 per cent of market rent,” McCormick said. “We have a huge gap in our community on that right now.”

Each 8-plex has four units on the main floor and four units on the top floor. The floor on the main floor of each complex is two one-bedroom accessible units and two bachelor units. The upper floor is four one-bedroom apartments.

“We know we have a severe shortage of apartments for singles in our community,” McCormick said. “Anyone from young kids that are just out of school looking for a first apartment to seniors that may want to reside on their own but not be in a senior’s complex.”

Ron Pidlubny spoke in opposition to changing the zoning bylaw. He said there is no green space in this area anymore.

In trying his best to stop the zoning change from happening, Pidlubny has a petition going and he had gathered 100 signatures before COVID-19 halted his signature gathering efforts.

“You’ve opened up Erin Crescent. You’ve opened up Huffman Court,” Pidlubny said. “I’m recommending a property slot. Maybe put these 8-plexes in Shevlin Yards.”

Others said council should also give some additional opportunities for the public to at least see these drawings because some residents who are going to be affected by these changes are not aware of it.

Zoning change approval has not been yet granted by council. Council is expected to make a vote when this item revisits the agenda in the future.