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.