CITY VIEW – OMB approves high-density student housing at Gordon Street and Stone Road

Posted April 25, 2013

On April 22, the Ontario Municipal Board approved the proposal to build a two-tower student-housing complex to provide accommodation for an estimated 1,100 students. The project would demolish the Best Western motel occupying the site.

The hearing took four weeks to complete with most days starting early and ending late, according to the chairman.

The original application by Abode Varsity Living Inc. was opposed by city council, the University of Guelph and the Mayfair Park Community Association, located adjacent to the project.

The bottom line in the extensive judgment was that the city attempted to argue high-density projects had to be built in the downtown core. Sound familiar? You will recall that for the past six and one half years, the Farbridge administration has spent millions to promote the downtown core. As has been argued, it was done at the expense of other capital needs in other parts of the city.

This policy, was embedded in the revised Official Plan and Zoning By-law. The board ordered that both these be amended to allow the Abode proposal to be designated as a high density zoned site.

The University objected on the grounds that it blocked the “Gateway” to the University even though its completion would help solve the shortage of on campus student housing. Of some 122,000 students, the University can only accommodate some 5,300, almost all of who are first year students or postgraduate students. The rest must seek accommodation elsewhere.

The University has approval to build a ten-storey student housing building across the street from the Abode project. But it was admitted there were no plans to start the project. It’s interesting to note that Coun. Leanne Piper is employed by the University to head up its student-housing department. If she voted on council against allowing Abode to proceed, then that’s a direct conflict of interest. There will be more on this later.

The failure of this housing policy is the growing number of single-family homes, converted to multi-student housing with little or no supervision. This has enraged property owners living next to or nearby who see their single-family neighbourhood destroyed by crowds of unruly and uncaring students.

The city has done nothing to stop this unlawful conversion by unscrupulous landlords. Its excuse is it doesn’t want to provoke a civil rights intercession.

So, what did we learn today?

1. The city administration among other issues, said the Official Plan requires high-density projects to be built in the Downtown core, not at the corner of Gordon and Stone Road.

2. The administration is doing nothing about the spread of illegal student housing in single-family areas.

3. That the OMB judgment recognized there is a growing demand for at least 13,000-plus student-housing units in the city.

4. That following two amendments to the Official Plan to accommodate the Abode project in principle, details of the size and scope are to be negotiated by the city and the developer.

Those matters are complex and in some cases there are ridiculous rules established by city council that thwarts bonafide proposals.

And we wonder why Guelph is such a hard place in which to do business.


Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “CITY VIEW – OMB approves high-density student housing at Gordon Street and Stone Road

  1. Jerry

    It strikes me as funny that Abode could not build the high rise building on
    Gordon and stone because of the bylaw that says all high density buildings
    had to be built in the down town core.But the university of Guelph got
    permission from the city to build a high rise building right across the street
    from the Abode site.
    And now that the developer has to go before council/mayor to get these
    ratified is going to be near impossible.
    But i am sure the university does not have to go thru the same process.

    • Jerry _ According to the ruling the city and developer have two months to change the Official Plan to accommodate Abode’s project. If not the OMB will be asking questions and withhold approval.

  2. Jerry

    So all the city has to do is hold up the process for two month’s and the
    approval will be with held.
    Well,with all the councilors that hold positions in council and the university
    that should be pretty easy to achieve.
    The city and university will get what they want and Abode housing will
    get screwed.Thanks for trying to business in this city but you do not fit into
    the Farbridge.council secret agenda so go away.

  3. Steve

    The city is certainly misguided to expect all high-density development to be in the downtown core, but this issue exposes a bigger problem at the UofG – insufficient student housing.
    With an undergraduate population of around 20,000 they should have far more on-campus and off-campus housing available.

    • Steve: I guess the OMB judgment spelled that out clearly. Despite the facts, the university still complains about the OMB approval to allow Abode Varsity Housing to build accommodation for some 1,100 students on the university’s doorstep.

  4. Was glad to see the OMB ruled in favour of Abode. Sometimes it seems as though this administration forgets we are a university town. Why is there a consistent need to punish the student population? Keep pushing the students and they will eventually turn on you!

    • Russell: The city administration stays away from the issue of guerilla student housing like the plague. The irony is that Coun. Leanne Piper is housing manager for the university. Is there a whiff of conflict here? Didn’t council vote to reject the Abode project? Which hat is the good lady wearing these days? So many questions and so few answers.

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